Eagles soar into Sub-section 3A finals
WORTHINGTON -- Every time it looked as if Adrian was going to put Tuesday's Sub-section 3A South boys' basketball game away, Southwest Christian's Alex Huisken stepped up.
Huisken scored 33 points and pulled down 15 rebounds to lead the Eagles (19-5) past the Dragons (16-9), 78-69.
"We pulled it together at the end, that's for sure," Huisken said. "The first half was a little rusty, and that got me kind of nervous, but in the second half, we just pulled together and got a win, and that's all that matters."
SWC advances to face Ellsworth at 8 p.m. Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. The Eagles have been defeated twice this season by Ellsworth.
"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to get to the sub-section final and play Ellsworth," SWC head coach Jamie Pap said. "Now we have the opportunity to go up there and see what happens."
After Adam Diekmann (seven points) hit a trey to start the game, SWC's Tommy Van't Hof hit a layup to bring the score back to within a point.
Danny Parsley (16 points) drove to the basket and converted on a shot as Adrian jumped out to an 11-7 lead.
"We wanted to get to the hole with (Parsley) and (Brian) Tjepkes to kind of set (Brett) Oertli up a little bit," Adrian head coach Chris Rozell said. "We struggled a little in the second half and didn't get there as much, but I thought overall our game plan was pretty effective."
After a shot from Van't Hof later brought the Eagles back within four, 20-16, the Dragons went on a 10-4 run sparked by a shot from Oertli (20 points, 17 rebounds, five blocks) to take a 30-20 advantage.
"That was a heck of a game," Pap said. "Adrian is a great ball club and very well coached. They came to play tonight."
However, with Adrian looking to increase the lead, Huisken took over.
"Adrian called a timeout or I did, I don't exactly remember in the first half, and I pulled him aside and I said 'Alex it's time for you to step it up,'" Pap said. "The shots weren't falling from the outside, so I told Alex it's time to step it up and get us going."
Huisken responded by scoring 13 of the Eagles next 15 points as SWC turned a 10-point deficit into a 1-point lead, 35-34.
"In the first half, right away, it wasn't clicking for me," Huisken said. "And then when I came up on the wing, I would drive on them because I am a little faster than Oertli, so I took it at them every time and it seemed to be working."
Tjepkes (24 points) answered with a trey and converted a drive as Adrian had a 41-37 lead at halftime.
The teams traded baskets to start the second half, and after a 3-point play from Tyler Mouw (19 points, six rebounds), SWC had a slim 55-54 lead.
"They hit a few shots and we hit a few shots, and it would kind of go back-and-forth," Pap said. "Huisken really stepped it up in the first half and got a bunch of buckets for us."
A shot from Tjepkes, Oertli and Parsley would then give Adrian a 61-55 lead.
With eight minutes left in the game, it was once again Huisken that came to SWC's rescue.
After converting two straight drive to the basket, he connected on three straight baskets to give the Eagles a 65-64 lead.
"I got in a zone where you do it once and it clicks, so you keep doing it," Huisken said.
While the Eagles continued to soar offensively, the Dragons went the opposite way and scored just five points in the final six minutes.
"I thought we controlled the tempo for the majority of the game," Rozell said. "As soon as you lose your focus for a stretch, it's going to hurt, and it did tonight. We kind of lost our focus there for about a minute and a half, and they got the lead and the momentum."
With the Dragons stuck on 65 points, Ryan Pronk (six points, six assists) converted a layup to spark the Eagles, and Huisken's jumper capped a 16-0 run to put the game away.
"(Huisken is) a load," Rozell said. "We struggled finding an answer for him, and we really never did. He played a great game for them."
Oertli ended the field goal drought with a basket and later connected on a free throw, but the Eagles were able to run out the clock in the 78-69 victory.
"They won the game tonight," Rozell said. "You've heard it before, but nobody really lost tonight. Our guys played great and they played hard the whole game. When it's as evenly matched as it was, it was just a matter of who was going to let down first and take advantage of it."
After playing in front of a capacity crowd in the Worthington gym, Huisken and the Eagles will have the opportunity to play in another larger environment Saturday.
"It's one of the best experiences to play up there," Huisken said of playing as SMSU. "It's totally a different environment, and it's one of a kind."
Adrian 41 28 -- 69
SWC 37 41 -- 78
Adrian (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Diekmann 1-1-2-7, Parsley 1-5-3-16, Tjepkes 5-3-3-24, Oertli 0-9-2-20, Weidert 0-0-2-2. Totals 7-18-12-69.
SWC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Van't Hof 0-4-0-8, Huisken 1-14-2-33, Vander Veen 1-1-0-5, Mouw 1-6-4-19, Holm 1-1-2-7, Pronk 0-3-0-6. Totals 4-29-8-78.