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'He just gets things done': Hagen elevating Blooming Prairie hoops to new heights

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Blooming Prairie's Gabe Hagen (33) goes up for a shot during a boys basketball game against Hayfield Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in Hayfield. Hagen has been a key cog for the Blossoms, who are 16-2 this season. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Gabe Hagen was the straw that stirred the drink for the Blooming Prairie football team that won a state championship in November.

The athletic senior is playing the same role this winter for the Awesome Blossoms boys basketball team, which sits just outside the top 10 in the most recent Class A state poll.

"He’s a rare athlete," Blooming Prairie coach Nate Piller said of Hagen. "We don’t see that type of kid come through Blooming Prairie all the time. He’s got good teammates around him."

As of late, Hagen and his teammates have jelled as much as Piller expected they would when the season began. That connection among the Blossoms' players has not been more evident than it was Friday, when Blooming Prairie knocked off Hayfield 59-54 at Hayfield in a battle of arguably the two best teams in Section One, Class A.

"We had a problem early in the year where guys on the perimeter wouldn’t cut for him," Piller said. "(Friday) they did a great job of recognizing where the double team is going to come from and who needs to cut to get an open layup."

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As he has all season, Hagen excelled against Hayfield, even in the face of constant pressure. Every time he touched the ball, the Vikings had an extra defender flying to him.

Hagen has shown the same characteristics on the hardwood that he showed on the turf on Friday nights in the fall, when he caught 61 passes for 874 yards and 15 TDs.

The 6-foot-4, 248-pounder is headed to Minnesota State University on a football scholarship. His toughness and athleticism have paid off big-time for the Blossoms basketball team, which is 16-2, its two losses coming by a combined 10 points.

Hagen didn't flinch under pressure against the Vikings, as the entire Blooming Prairie offense ran through Hagen. And he delivered every single time.

"I’ve been a starter since ninth grade so I have a lot of trust in my teammates," Hagen said. "I try to keep cool, so I take a jab step at the double team to get things moving, and I look for the person that came off their guy."

In the biggest of moments, Hagen managed to keep his cool yet again. With the score tied at 54-54, the Hayfield crowd was roaring after a game-tying 3-pointer from Isaac Matti. Piller set up a play for Hagen, and a double-team came. Hagen diced it yet again. He whipped a pass to back-cutting Drew Kittelson for the go-ahead bucket.

Hagen noted that many believe he models his game after Utah Jazz legend Karl ‘Mailman’ Malone. But Hagen’s game also mirrors Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic. Sometimes, it’s rare to see offense facilitated by a big man, but Hagen makes it look easy.

"If you just look at him, the kid is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds and it’s a lot of muscle," Piller said. "He’s a competitor. He wants to win at everything he does."

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Hagen is excited to get to Minnesota State, Mankato, in the fall, but he’s focused on the moment and trying to lead Blooming Prairie to a state basketball tournament.

"Even if I was in my prime, he wouldn’t be a kid I’d want to go up against," Piller said. "He just gets things done. He’s so smart. He’s been around the game for a really long time. He understands the game so well."

Blooming Prairie now owns sole possession of second place in the Gopher Conference, behind Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, one of the two teams to defeat the Blossoms this season (64-60 on Jan. 10). 

"It was a really big win," Hagen said of Friday's victory against Hayfield. "We needed this win to win conference. Hopefully, this helps us get a better seed in sections too."

Hagen has no plans of slowing down any time soon. And opponents will have to bring double-teams at him at their own risk.

 

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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