Hawley senior forward Jacob Vetter did not need to play basketball this season. No one would have blamed him, as he's set to play football for Northern State University next year.
No one certainly would have blamed him, considering he tore his ACL, meniscus and broke his tibia during his junior football season.
Yet, there he was Friday at Concordia's Memorial Auditorium, leading Hawley's boys basketball team to the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 championship game.
"I played basketball because I'm with my friends, I'm with the community," Vetter said. "It's a great feeling on a weeknight to look up in the stands and see everyone supporting you from your town. I also like competing and just going out and being a leader."
Vetter had 20 points and eight rebounds in a 74-59 win over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the section semifinals.
"It's the same thing as (North Dakota State football player Ben) Ellefson," Hawley coach Nathan Stoa said. "They're ultimate competitors and these are their boys. These are their friends and this is who they grew up and they wouldn't let them down by walking away from something they've done for a long time together.
"Jacob is a fantastic kid, who went through way too much unfortunately last year. To sit there and watch almost 30 games, where he didn't get to be with his boys, it's brutal. Seeing this run with him is a phenomenal thing."
Sitting on the bench last season, Vetter couldn't help but wonder what he could've done, especially in the close games.
"I don't even know how to put that into words, it's so hard to sit and watch," Vetter said. "I think we had 10 games within 10 points last year and sitting there not being able to do anything was probably the worst feeling of my life."
Hawley (23-4) opened the game on a 12-2 run thanks to two 3-pointers from Mason Klevgaard. D-G-F (19-10) would cut the lead to three with a 7-0 run of its own, but never get any closer in the first half, as the Nuggets had an answer for any D-G-F spurt. Vetter had 12 points and seven rebounds in the first half to lead the Nuggets to a 38-30 lead at halftime.
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's only lead of the game was at 2-0. The Rebels would get within six at 40-34 early in the second half, but Hawley had a 14-2 run capped with a Jayden Carlisle 3-pointer. Carlisle turned to the Hawley student section and screamed after sinking it.
"First half we were kind of settling," said Carlisle, who finished with 18 points. "I know we've played here a lot, but you got to settle in. We missed a couple box outs here and there, we let them go on a little run. Second half we came out ready to play. We brought it to them."
Hawley will take on No. 3-ranked Perham at 7 p.m. Saturday back at Memorial Auditorium for the section title. The Nuggets are looking for their first section championship since 2000. They'll have to beat a 28-1 Perham team that beat them by 20 and 24 during the regular season.
"It seems like they do everything well," Vetter said. "We're just going to have work hard, try our best, put it all on the floor, make shots, play good defense and outwork them."
Halftime: Hawley 38, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 30
D-G-F: Coalwell 8, A. Leach 6, Tahran 10, Leitner 14, Strand 8, O. Leach 4, Friend 4, Walz 2, Mickelson 3.
H: Klevgaard 9, Carlisle 18, Libak 2, Vetter 20, Glad 16, Kopacek 1, Lawson 8.