AURORA — After the Hastings boys basketball team beat Lexington in the final game of the 2022 calendar year, head coach Drew Danielson knew his team had an opportunity to go on a run.
That victory was the first of four straight wins going into Monday’s game against Class C-1 No. 8 Aurora, as HHS seems to be playing its highest level of basketball of the season, thus far.
Hastings’ win streak came to an end on Monday, but the Tigers’ head coach still saw plenty of good things that made him happy with the way his team played in the majority of the game. Ultimately, Hastings just didn’t make the shots it needed to in order to compete with the Huskies, falling to Aurora 54-43 — a far cry from last year’s 57-21 defeat HHS suffered against the Huskies.
“We had a lot of good looks (Monday), they just didn’t fall,” Danielson said. “People have to remember, this was a 36-point game last year...and if you look at the big picture, our guys fought tonight. Aurora is a good basketball team. They’re extremely physical. The looks we usually get weren’t in rhythm just because of how physical they are defensively.”
The game came down to a pair of Aurora scoring runs, both of which countered runs from the Tigers.
After Hastings jumped out to a 10-4 lead, the Huskies responded with a 15-4 run — Aurora never trailed again after gaining the lead during that stretch. The second Husky run came in the third quarter, when Aurora scored 18 of 22 points to turn a 29-all tie into a 47-33 advantage.
The scoring runs were disappointing in themselves, but the way the Tigers overcame that first deficit and tied the game in the second half was encouraging to Danielson.
Hastings had seen its early lead disappear and found itself in a nine-point hole in the third quarter. Trailing 28-19, Hastings scored 10 of the next 11 points to tie the game at 29-apiece. Six of those points came from Parker Ablott while four were from Braydon Power.
“It shows the fight of this team to get it tied up in the third quarter,” the HHS coach said.
A 3-pointer from Ablott prompted Aurora to call a timeout. Immediately after the break, the Huskies began their 18-4 run that ultimately put the game out of reach of the Tigers.
Hastings’ offense struggled in the second half. The Tigers shot 23.5% (4-for-17) from beyond the arc and 18-of-45 overall. Danielson said his team had the shots it was looking for; it just couldn’t find the bottom of the net.
“Credit Aurora and a lot of the things they did defensively,” Danielson said. “They were obviously well prepared. I thought we were pretty prepared...but at the end of the day, sometimes they just make shots and you don’t.”
Another reason for the offense’s lack of rhythm was the absence of transition opportunities. In order to get those, the Tigers needed to secure rebounds on the defensive end — a feat that proved difficult for HHS. Aurora out-rebounded Hastings 33-25 and especially dominate on the offensive glass.
“If you just take those five offensive rebounds they got, and give them to us, it allows us to get out in transition and they can’t be physical with our 3s. And really, that’s the difference,” Danielson said. “It’s just the little things. But I’ll tell you what, it’s a lot happier for me to talk about the little things on why you lost a game instead of, ‘You lost by 36, now what do you do?’ “
Power led the Tigers with 16 points and with six rebounds. The HHS junior went 7-for-14 from the floor and made the only two free throws attempted by a Tiger. Caden Block and Ablott each chipped in with nine points.
Carsen Staehr led the Huskies with 18 points, despite finishing 8-for-20 from the field. Booker Scheierman totaled 14 points for Aurora.
Hastings will look to start a new streak on Thursday when it hosts Class A foe Columbus (5-7) before taking on 2-11 Elkhorn North, which is also at home.
“Just fight every single game, every single day — and that’s what we’re asking the kids to do, is just fight. We may have lost (Monday), but if we win the next two at the end of the week, and you’re looking at a 2-1 week,” Danielson said.
Hastings (5-6).....10 9 14 10 — 43
Aurora (9-4)........7 18 18 11 — 54
Aaron Nonneman 2-9 0-0 4, Eli Schneider 1-4 0-0 3, Landon Hinrichs 0-2 0-0 0, Caden Block 4-6 0-0 9, Braydon Power 7-14 2-2 16, Parker Ablott 3-7 0-0 9, Trevor Campbell 1-2 0-0 2, Jackson Block 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 18-45 2-2 43
Chase Phillips 1-6 2-3 5, Booker Schheierman 4-5 3-6 14, Dylan Danielson 4-10 0-0 9, Carsen Staehr 8-20 0-0 18, Carlos Collazo 1-1 3-6 5, Koby Nachtigal 0-2 0-0 0, Kaiden Wineteer 1-4 0-0 3. Totals: 19-48 9-16 54.