Section 3A boys basketball: Southwest Christian, Canby to tangle
MARSHALL — The Section 3A boys basketball tournament reaches its yearly decisive point yet again tonight at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, and Southwest Minnesota Christian will be in on the thick of it all for the third time in as many years.
The Eagles, the winners of 25 games this season and the loser of just two, will face what appears on paper to be an equally capable team from Canby tonight (March 6) in the section final game at 8 p.m.
The Lancers boast a 24-4 record and were the winners of the southern division of the Camden Conference. They defeated the sub-section tournament’s top-seeded and explosive Dawson-Boyd in the sub-section final, 62-58, to make it to today.
After splitting with the Blackjacks in the regular season, Canby utilized a 9-0 run late in their semifinal win last Friday to seal the victory. Senior guard Michael Slaba hit a few clutch shots for the Lancers en route to 31 points for the evening.
“We’ll have to really contain Slaba and push the ball down the floor,” Southwest Christian head coach Jamie Pap said Wednesday. “They also have a couple of good post players on the inside as well as a couple of good-shooting guards.”
Southwest finished second in the Red Rock Conference to Mountain Lake Area after winning a state title last year. It began its postseason play this season by rolling over Edgerton 73-46, and followed it up with a just as impressive 64-37 win over Murray County Central.
In the sub-section finals, Southwest Christian had its third and final game of the season with Ellsworth, where it prevailed, 73-46, at SMSU.
SWC finished the regular season with its standout 6-5 post player Leighton Sampson’s 20.1 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game partially leading the way. Also, near the top of the Red Rock Conference standings for three-point shooting percentage were Southwest players Luke Nibbelink, Nate Pfeifle and Clayton Huisken.
The Eagles have started nearly everything they’ve done this winter with their defense, however, and it is likely they’ll rely on some sort of pressure, as well as tenacious rebounding, to get easy shots on the other end against Canby.
“They’re really strong, and I’d say a key thing for the game will be to keep them off of the offensive glass,” Pap said. “We have to give them one shot, not two. They’re really good at attacking the rebounds.
“Canby’s not going to quit,” Pap added. “However big of a lead we’d get on them, they won’t roll over. They were down by seven with 1:25 to go (against Dawson-Boyd) and went on an 11-0 run to win the game. They’re very good and we’ll have to play well to beat them.”
The winner of tonight’s game will make a trip to the Class A boys state basketball tournament, scheduled for March 12-15 at the Target Center and the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena.
“We’re really excited to get the opportunity to play in the section final, yet we’re not taking it for granted,” Pap said. “We’re not looking past them. The next game on our schedule is Canby, so that’s the biggest game of the year. They’re really good and they didn’t get here by accident.”