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Fans of Southwest Christian cheer during Saturday's Section 3A boys basketball game in Marshall.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Strong start lifts Eagles to 3A title

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MARSHALL -- Southwest Christian reached the MSHSL Class A Boys Basketball Section 3 Tournament championship game by blitzing Russell-Tyler-Ruthton from the start.

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The Eagles (26-1) led 20-1 midway through the first half en route to a 77-58 victory over the Knights (27-2) during the title contest of the MSHSL Class A Section 3 South Division Tournament on Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State University's R/A Facility in Marshall.

"Our defense set the tone right away," said SWC head coach Jamie Pap, who watched the Eagles hold advantages in rebounds (31-27), steals (10-2) and fewer turnovers (21-9). "We knew that (Russell-Tyler-Ruthton) would try to get (Brett) Peterson and (Brett) Vercuysse going right away. I told our guys to focus on those two guys by not letting them get going and it paid off."

Southwest Christian scored the first 13 points of the game, mostly on two field goals each from Dominic Nibbelink (13 points) and Leighton Sampson (18 points). Nibbelink added a free throw before Kaleb Schelhass hit a baseline jumper and Eric Talsma (17 points, 13 rebounds) stuck back a missed shot.

"We get excited for these kinds of games and, when they come around, we have to push the ball up the floor and play our toughest," Talmsa said. "For us to come out that strong, it was surprising. But it felt really good and we just started feeding off that energy during that quick start."

After a free throw from Brett Vercruysse ended Russell-Tyler-Ruthton's scoring drought a little less than 7 minutes into the game, Nate Pfiefle and Talsma handed Southwest Christian a 17-1 lead on consecutive baskets.

Then, Pfiefle (16 points) converted his first 3-point shot, which was part of his 4 of 9 effort from behind the arc.

Knights' leading scorer, Brett Peterson missed his first seven shots and was held to zero first-half points. Vercruysse had five points before the break, but broke free in the second half to finish with 20 markers.

"It was good to get a quick lead," Pfiefle said. "We just wanted to stay up on (Russell-Tyler-Ruthton) and not let up at all. We didn't want (Brett) Peterson to get any easy shots. We defended him well by making him force the shots he took."

The Knights, who didn't score their first field goal until Shay Wabeke drained a top-of-the-key 3-pointer with 8:44 remaining before halftime, were staring at 16-point (20-4) deficit.

The rest of the first half didn't go much better for Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, which trailed 46-18 at intermission. Forced to play catch-up, the Knights took advantage of another 3-pointer from Wabeke and two more long-range shots behind the arc from Brett Knudson (13 points), who went 4 of 6 from 3-point land.

The Knights turned to Vercruysse and Peterson during the second half, when they combined to score 22 points. Vercruysse posted 15 points by establishing himself underneath the basket during the final 18 minutes and Peterson rattled off all eight of his markers, mostly from the perimeter.

Russell-Tyler-Ruthton made a 30-19 surge during the the first 12 minutes of the second half, but could only cut the Southwest Christian lead to 65-48 with 6 minutes left.

"We ran out of steam down the stretch," Knights head coach Ted Kern said. "(Southwest Christian) was able to hit some free throws, we had some empty possessions and it was too much to overcome.

"We knew they were capable of a start like that. Our focus was to have a start like that for ourselves. Then, defensively (Southwest Christian) took away everything we wanted to do."

The Eagles countered with Sampson, who had 12 of his 18 points after halftime, and Talsma, who made only one second-half basket, but connected on 7 of 8 free-throw attempts.

Southwest Christian plays Dawson-Boyd (22-5) for the MSHSL Class A Section 3 Tournament championship at 5 p.m. Thursday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

The Blackjacks advanced by defeating MACCRAY 61-37 in the North Division championship game Saturday in Marshall.

Daily Globe Sports Editor Jeff Arenz

may be reached at 376-7328.

MSHSL CLASS A BOYS BASKETBALL

SECTION 3 SOUTH DIVISION TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP

Saturday

At R/A Facility, Southwest Minnesota

State University, Marshall

SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN 77,

RUSSELL-TYLER-RUTHTON 58

SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN (26-1): Huisken 1-2 0-0 2, Pfeifle 5-14 2-3 16, Knutson 2-6 2-2 7, Schelhaas 1-3 0-0 2, Nibbelink 5-7 2-4 13, Vander Veen 1-5 0-0 2, Talsma 5-6 7-8 17, Sampson 9-16 0-0 18, DeBoer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 29-63 (46%) 13-17 (76%) 77.

RUSSELL-TYLER-RUTHTON (27-2): Knudson 4-6 1-2 13, Vogt 0-1 0-0 0, Peterson 3-13 2-3 8, Weets 1-1 0-0 2, DeRuyter 0-2 0-0 0, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Dunblaizer 1-4 3-4 5, Wabeke 4-8 0-0 10, Vercruysse 8-11 4-6 20. Totals: 21-47 (45%) 10-15 (67%) 58.

Southwest Christian 46 31 -- 77

Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 18 40 -- 58

3-Point Goals: Southwest Christian 6-15 (Pfeifle 4-9, Nibbelink 1-2, Knutson 1-3, Robinson 0-1); Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 6-13 (Knudson 4-6, Wabeke 2-4, Peterson 0-3). Rebounds: Southwest Christian 31 (Talsma 3, Nibbelink 7); Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 27 (Vercruysse 8). Total Fouls (Fouled Out): Southwest Christian 14 (none); Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 15 (Wabeke). Technical Fouls: None. Assists: Southwest Christian 18 (Talsma 5, Nibbelink 4); Russell-Tyler-Ruthton N/A. Steals: Southwest Christian 10 (Talsma 3, Huisken 3, Nibbelink 2, Pfeifle, Vander Veen); Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 2 (Peterson, Wabeke). Blocked Shots: Southwest Christian 1 (Sampson); Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 3 (Dunblaizer 2, Wabeke). Turnovers: Southwest Christian 9; Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 21.

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