PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Knights handle Chargers
WORTHINGTON -- Brett Vercruysse scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, while Brett Peterson scored 12 of his 20 points after halftime, as the second-seeded Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Knights stretched a 10-point lead at the break into an 81-57 victory over the No. 7-seed Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers in the third Section 3A South Boys Basketball Tournament quarterfinal game of four played Saturday at Worthington High School.
The Knights, who improved to 26-1 overall and advanced to face third-seeded Red Rock Central on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Worthington, needed Vercruysse's huge first half as the Chargers focused on stopping R-T-R's outside shooters, Peterson and Shay Wabeke (15 points).
"Outstanding job in the first half by Brett Vercruysse," R-T-R head coach Ted Kern said. "(The Chargers) were definitely trying to take away Pete and Shay. Brett (Vercruysse) was extremely active and it paid off for him with 16 points at the half as he did a very nice job, especially on the offensive glass."
Vercruysse finished with a double-double, grabbing 13 of R-T-R's 41 rebounds and also blocking two shots. He scored the final six Knights' points of the half, including a putback at the halftime buzzer for a 40-30 lead after 18 minutes.
"There were a couple minutes at the end of the first half where we had some decent shots that didn't go in," W-WG head coach Derrick Jenniges said. "We took some quick shots on some possessions and (the Knights) were able to turn them into some transition baskets and offensive putbacks to give them that 10-point lead at halftime.
"That was momentum going into halftime, but I thought our guys responded well coming out of the half. We got some early stops and made some early shots to get the game back within 6-to-8 points a handful of times. (R-T-R) just had too much firepower for us and eventually wore us down."
The Chargers', who ended the year at 10-16 overall, only lead of the game came early when Taylor Lindaman knocked down a 3 from the left corner 1 minute, 16 seconds in, giving W-WG a 5-2 advantage. Lindaman scored all 12 of his team-high points before intermission.
W-WG cut the deficit to four points (41-37) through the first 4 minutes of the second half as Reed Bakken hit a long 2 from the top of the key and Shane Buchman (10 points) buried a 3 from the left corner off an Alex Knutson (11 points) assist, before Knutson made a spin in the paint and dropped in a 12-footer.
However, the Knights' Shane Vogt (eight points) answered with a 3 prior to Peterson unleashing a 3-point play with a hard drive to the hoop, pushing the gap back to 10 (47-37) with 13:27 remaining.
"When (W-WG) switched to the man (defense), we did a really nice job of getting them spread out," Kern said. "That gave us some driving lanes to the basket. It was a physical game and (Peterson) did a nice job of attacking the defense."
With Peterson finally settled in, the Knights continued to roll as the 6-foot-4 guard converted a steal into another 3-point play with 8:33 left that pushed the bulge to 61-43.
"When you are getting triangled-and-two'ed like (the Chargers) were doing on defense (in the first half), we just had to be active and to get open," Peterson said. "The guys set me up with screens and I was able to get to the basket. You just have to have energy when (the defense) is tight on you like that and that's what we did."
In addition to his 20 points, Peterson finished with eight rebounds, five assists, four steals and blocked two shots. Newt Dunblazier added 12 points for R-T-R to go along with five shot blocks. The Knights blocked 11 shots as a team.
"Our focus to start the game was on Wabeke and Peterson," Jenniges said. "We did a pretty good job on those two guys. But to get something, you have to give something and Vercruysse took advantage of that (in the first half). Maybe we didn't keep him off the glass enough, but him and Dunblazier had some good high-low touches together and it was a hard combination for us to guard."
Bakken assisted Knutson for a 3 from atop the key that kept the Chargers within 15 (63-48) with 6:30 left and Buchman added a triple a minute later to again draw W-WG within 15 (66-51), before the Knights finished with a 15-6 run.
Nine players scored in the game for Westbrook-Walnut Grove. In addition to the top three scorers (Lindaman, Knutson and Buchman), Andrew Merrick added six points and Bakken had five, while Matt Otto and Aaron Hass each scored four, Walker Christians made a first-half 3-pointer and Tristan Joel completed the Chargers' scoring with a putback following an Otto steal with 1:18 left.
W-WG graduates four seniors: Bakken, Hass, Lindaman and Merrick.
"I'm really proud of my guys and the way they battled until the final buzzer," Jenniges said. "We are going to miss those four seniors. They provided us with a lot of leadership and commitment to the program. They were a big part of getting us (to Saturday's game) and that will be important moving forward."
WESTBROOK-WALNUT GROVE 57
WESTBROOK-WALNUT GROVE (10-16): Merrick 3 0-0 6, Lindaman 4 2-2 12, Bakken 2 0-0 5, A. Knutson 5 0-0 11, Buchman 3 3-3 10, M. Otto 2 0-0 4, Joel 1 0-0 2, Hass 2 0-0 4, Chris-tians 1 0-0 3, J. Totals: 23 4-6 57.
RUSSELL-TYLER-RUTHTON (26-1): Vogt 3 0-1 8, Peterson 8 3-4 20, DeRuyter 1 0-0 2, Johnson 1 0-0 2, Dun-blazier 4 4-6 12, Moberg 1 0-0 2, Wabeke 3 7-8 15, Vercruysse 7 5-7 20. Totals: 28 19-26 81.
Westbrook-Walnut Grove 30 27 -- 57
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 40 41 -- 81
3-Point Goals: W-WG 7 (Lindaman 2, Buchman 2, Bakken, A. Knutson, Christians); R-T-R 6 (Vogt 2, Wabeke 2, Peterson, Vercruysse). Rebounds: W-WG 25 (Hass 7, Merrick 5, Knutson 4); R-T-R 41 (Vercruysse 13, Peterson 8). Total Fouls (Fouled Out): W-WG 20 (Hass); R-T-R 13 (None). Technical Fouls: None. Assists: W-WG 14 (Knutson 8, Merrick 3); R-T-R 10 (Peterson 5). Steals: W-WG 6 (Merrick 3); R-T-R 6 (Peterson 4). Blocked Shots: W-WG 4; R-T-R 11 (Dunblazier 5, Peterson 2, Vercruysse 2). Turnovers: W-WG 8; R-T-R 6.