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Boys Basketball: Bombers' Johnson redeemed in section OT win

Cannon Falls' Jordan Lundell (15) wraps his arm around teammate Hunter Johnson after Johnson hit a pair of game-winning free throws in the waining seconds of Monday's 54-52 Section 1AA-West overtime victory over Hayfield at the Mayo Civic Center. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 3
Cannon Falls' Austin Noble (right) goes in for a layup past a Hayfield defender Monday in Rochester. Noble finished with nine points, nine rebounds and the game-altering steal in the Bombers' 54-52 overtime victory. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 3
Cannon Falls' Jordan Lundell (right) drives by Hayfield's Jeremy Stuart during the first half Monday in Rochester. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)3 / 3

ROCHESTER -- Hunter Johnson was haunted by one shot during the course of this season.

Against Hayfield back on Nov. 26, Johnson had the chance to tie the game in the last minute with a steal at midcourt, only to see the seemingly automatic bucket bounce off the bottom of the rim.

“I got crap for that for the longest time,” Johnson said.

So when Johnson had another chance against the Vikings to sink a game-winning shot, he was not going to miss.

Tied at 52-52 with 0.3 seconds left in overtime in Monday’s Section 1AA-West semifinals, Johnson was intentionally fouled on a breakaway layup and had two chances at the line to seal the game. All alone at the stripe, Johnson hit both shots, helping the third-seeded Bombers get to the sub-section finals with a 54-52 victory and exorcising the demons of that missed layup.

“I’m not saying I was thinking about (the missed layup), but it was definitely in my head,” said Johnson, who had 15 points, four assists, four rebounds and two steals. “That situation comes up again and I had the chance to make a game-winning free throw. It’s unreal. It’s awesome.

“No one is going to talk about that missed layup anymore, so that makes me kind of happy,” Johnson added with a grin.

Cannon Falls head coach Josh Davisson added, “It’s a testament to him and his character. He’s kind of had that in the back of his head all year long. What a way for him to finish the basketball game against Hayfield by hitting two free throws with everybody watching, all by himself.”

With the victory, Cannon Falls (20-9) will play for the sub-section championship at 6 p.m. Saturday against Byron at the Mayo Civic Center. The top-seeded Bears knocked out Rochester Lourdes 66-57 on Monday. 

“Both teams really played their hearts out,” Davisson said. “Fortunate for us, we get to go and play on Saturday.”

As the No. 2 seed Vikings set up for the final shot in overtime, a quick swat of the ball by Austin Noble got the Bombers the ball and started the calamitous ending.

“I don’t think I’ve seen Austin jump that high in my entire life,” Johnson said. “That was awesome. That was a huge play.”

With time running out, Noble flipped the ball down court where Johnson was just able to catch up and try to shoot before being fouled hard by Hayfield’s Drew Streightiff (10 points, four rebounds).

“I knew it was short time left, so I knew I had to get the pass up, so I threw it with one hand,” Noble said. “Luckily, Hunter got there. He’s a quick kid.”

The clutch steal was the highlight for Noble, who had nine points and nine rebounds.

“Austin has really been coming along for us,” said Bombers senior Alex Bultena. “It’s exciting to see Austin come along and come up big when we needed him.”

In a game that had seven lead changes, 14 ties and the biggest lead was just five points, Cannon Falls needed big second halves from Bultena and Noble to get to overtime. With the Vikings looking to slow down Brock Peterson and Jordan Lundell on the outside, Bultena (17 points) and Noble found a way to work on the inside.

“It’s such a big arena, we thought it would be tough in the wide-open space,” Bultena said, looking around the Mayo Civic Center floor. “But if we could get inside, penetrate and get to the hoop, we knew that could open the outside for us.”

Down 48-46 with 1:35 left in regulation, Lundell hit his first field goal of the second half to tie the game. Hayfield stalled for the last shot, and a 3-point try by Cameron Rutledge went off the iron to force the extra period.

The Vikings had a four-point lead in overtime, but Bultena willed the Bombers back into the game with four straight points, including a layup that tied it at 52-52.

Then, after being the goat the first time around, Johnson got to be the hero on Monday.

“Earlier in the year when he missed that one it sucked,” Noble said, “but this makes up for it. We were confident he could go to the line and finish the game for us.”

Bultena added, “Hunter’s clutch. He’s one of our big-time players.”

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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