PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Knights pull away, knock off Falcons
WORTHINGTON -- The second-seeded Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Knights boys basketball team advanced to the Section 3A South Subsection championship game with a 65-48 victory over the third-seeded Red Rock Central Falcons in a Thursday night semifinal game at Worthington High School.
The Knights improved to 27-1 overall and will play the team that handed them their only blemish of the campaign -- the top-seeded Southwest Christian Eagles (25-1), who beat R-T-R 80-78 in overtime on Jan. 5 at Southwest Minnesota State University's R/A Facility. The Knights, ranked fifth in the final boys basketball poll, and the third-ranked Eagles will again square off at the R/A Facility on Saturday with the game schedule to tipoff at 2:30 p.m.
Red Rock Central ended its season with a 16-10 overall record and a third-place finish in the Red Rock Conference at 10-6.
Jeff DeCock and Henry Rogotzke each had 20 points and six rebounds to lead the Falcons, who trailed by seven points at halftime before pulling within one (33-32) following a Rogotzke putback with 12 minutes, 15 seconds left.
However, Brett Vercruysse, who had a big first half in R-T-R's semifinal win over Westbrook-Walnut Grove, scored four of his 15 second-half points over the next minute before Isaiah DeRuyter dished off to Brett Peterson for a left-wing 3 to push the lead back to eight (40-32) with 10:11 left and the Knights rolled from there.
"It was a lot closer game (than what the final score was)," Falcons head coach Brian Walker said. "It just kind of got away from us. We had a bad stretch there where we couldn't make any shots. We had open looks, but we struggled, it seemed like, all night. We hit a couple late, but when we really needed those open-look shots, they just didn't fall (Thursday)."
The Falcons' struggles from the field also extended to the foul line as RRC went 7-for-17 on free throws compared to R-T-R's 17-for-27.
"We got (R-T-R) into some foul trouble, but then we didn't convert the free throws like we did against Adrian (in the quarterfi-nals)," Walker added. "Same gym, same place; they just didn't fall (Thursday)."
While the Falcons had two players score 40 of their 49 points, the Knights received balanced scoring, led by Vercruysse and Peterson with 17 points each, while Shay Wabeke (five rebounds, two steals) added 11 points and Newt Dunblazier had eight.
Peterson (four assists) and Vercruysse each totaled double-doubles with 13 and 10 rebounds, respectively, while Dunblazier added nine boards and blocked three shots. Dunblazier and Ver-cruysse's presence in the paint helped R-T-R combat RRC's physical post players, Rogotzke and Tyler Halland (three points).
"Once you get to the playoffs, you expect the play to be physical and with the big guys that Red Rock has, that definitely works to their advantage," Knights head coach Ted Kern said. "I thought our kids did a good job of handling the physical play and returning it a little bit, particularly in the second half on the boards."
The R-T-R coach was also pleased with the minutes the Knights received from their bench.
"Outstanding bench play as we got some great minutes out of Isaiah DeRuyter (three points), who's pretty new to our rotation," Kern said. "Brett Knudsen (five points) did a nice job of coming in and playing some D and Shane Vogt (four points) was also big for us once again."
Red Rock Central, which scored the game's first basket when DeCock made a 10-foot runner in the lane after the game had gone scoreless for nearly 2 minutes, graduates seven seniors: Rogotzke, DeCock, Adam Holman (three points), Casey Engen, Aur'elin Jongen, Halland and Maison Miller (two points).
"They are a great group of kids," Walker said of his senior class. "Two 1,000 point scorers in Jeff and Henry and to have those kids on one team with their inside and outside play, they really brought the whole team together.
"Since Christmas, we've went 14-5 coming into (Thursday) and that's a pretty good run in the conference. To finish third in the league and to be competitive against everybody we played outside of Southwest Christian, I'm just really proud of the kids and the way they stuck to it and really played their roles throughout the year."
Meanwhile, the Knights have today to prepare for Saturday's meeting with Southwest Christian.
"You know what you are going to get with (Southwest Christian)," Kern said. "In-your-face, man-to-man defense and they are going to attack the basket, offensively, and (Leighton) Sampson gives them a nice post presence and they can shoot the 3. We're going to have our work cut out for us, but it's good to have the opportunity."
RED ROCK CENTRAL 48
RED ROCK CENTRAL (16-10): Rogotzke 8 3-4 20, Sohre 0 0-0 0, DeCock 8 3-10 20, Blomgren 0 0-0 0, Halter 0 0-0 0, Holman 1 0-0 3, Engen 0 0-0 0, Price 0 0-0 0, Halland 1 1-3 3, Miller 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 7-17 48.
RUSSELL-TYLER-RUTHTON (27-1): Knudsen 2 0-0 5, Vogt 1 1-3 4, Schwing 0 0-0 0, Peterson 6 4-8 17, Weets 0 0-0 0, DeRuyter 1 1-2 3, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Dunblazier 2 4-4 8, Moberg 0 0-0 0, Wabeke 2 6-8 11, Vercruysse 8 1-2 17. Totals: 22 17-27 65.
Red Rock Central 22 26 -- 48
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 29 36 -- 65
3-Point Goals: RRC 3 (Rogotzke, DeCock, Holman); RTR 4 (Knudsen, Vogt, Peterson, Wabeke). Rebounds: RRC 24 (Rogotzke 6, DeCock 6); RTR 41 (Peterson 14, Vercruysse 10, Dunblazier 9). Total Fouls (Fouled Out): RRC 18 (Rogotzke); RTR 16 (None). Technical Fouls: None. Assists: RRC 9 (DeCock 4); RTR 14 (Peterson 4). Steals: RRC 5 (DeCock 2); RTR 5 (Wabeke 2). Blocked Shots: RRC 2 (Rogotzke 2); RTR 3 (Dunblazier 3). Turnovers: RRC 12; RTR 15.