Hanson, whose mother Jane (Konz) Hanson played basketball at Northern State, was unstoppable in Tuesday’s contest, as the soon-to-be Creighton Bluejay led the Governors to a 72-59 victory against their Eastern South Dakota Conference rival.
After committing a loose-ball foul in the game’s first possession, Hanson more than made up for it with 26 points and nine rebounds as the Governors went to their big man early and often.
“Establishing Zach inside was our main focus. It was a little scary early because Zach picked up an early foul. We stayed focused on feeding him the ball and he played within himself,” Governors coach Terry Becker said.
Hanson scored the Governors first six points in the contest, sparking an 11-2 run to begin the game.
“Zach Hanson was just a beast in the first half,” said Aberdeen boys’ coach Brent Norberg. “He just ate us up. We said going in, ‘We’re going to double him and make somebody else beat us.’ They’re a very good team. We just were up against it tonight.”
The paint wasn’t the only setting where Hanson thrived.
Aberdeen Central sent multiple defenders who weren’t afraid to foul Hanson who made the unplanned hack-a-Zach strategy work in Pierre’s favor, going a perfect 12 of 12 from the charity stripe in the win.
“Zach’s free-throw shooting was good. He made his first four free throws before he got his first field goal. That got him into a rhythm and he was able to continue making them,” Becker said.
The Golden Eagles remained within striking distance after a quarter thanks to a three-pointer by Jacob Goehring in the closing seconds of the first quarter to keep the Golden Eagles within seven.
Unfortunately, for Aberdeen Central, the momentum from the final shot of the first quarter didn’t carry over. Erin Severyn began the second stanza with a three-pointer of his own, part of a night in which some of Pierre’s lesser-known players gave good contributions.
Erin Severyn, Carson Eisenbeisz, Garrett Pochop, Cooper Walton and others gave Pierre quality minutes as the Governors’ preseason weakness of depth is now developing into strength.
Aberdeen’s Brady Mohr drained a three-pointer in the second quarter but Pierre featured dunks from Lane Severyn and Hanson to close out the half and give the Governors a 42-20 lead with Hanson scoring 21 points in the half.
“They’re really tough to guard,” said Norberg about Pierre. “It was just tough to slow them down. They had 42 points at halftime. We just aren’t able to score at that rate.”
To the Golden Eagles’ credit, they didn’t surrender in the second half.
Mohr hit a pair of triples and Aaron Lorenz hit two more three-pointers in the third quarter to cut the lead to 15 but the Governors had an answer for every Aberdeen Central run.
“We were able to stave off those runs. We had people step up a little bit when we needed to stop a run,” Becker said. “We were able to get timely baskets to keep that cushion for us and that’s important if you want to be a good team.”
The Governors put the kibosh to a comeback in the fourth quarter as Hanson scored the first five points of the quarter, including an old-fashioned three-point play. The Governors went on to win and push their record to 6-4. Aberdeen Central fell to 3-9 in the loss.
Lorenz led the way for the Golden Eagles with 16 points while Mohr added 10. The Golden Eagles will host Sturgis on Friday at Golden Eagles Arena.
“I thought we physically tried to step up our game to deal with what was going on out there,” said Norberg. “Defensively, we have to get a whole lot better.”