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BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE
Southwest Christian senior Clayton Huisken works the ball around the perimeter Thursday in the Section 3A boys basketball championship game against Canby.
BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Southwest Christian senior Clayton Huisken works the ball around the perimeter Thursday in the Section 3A boys basketball championship game against Canby.

Section 3A boys basketball: SWC denied state trip

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sports Worthington, 56187

Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

MARSHALL — Each time Edgerton Southwest Christian sliced Canby’s lead Thursday night during their Section 3A boys basketball final, the Lancers reliably had a comeback. That’s how the ball bounces from time to time.

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For the first time in three seasons, Southwest Christian will miss out on a trip to the Class A state basketball tournament. Instead, playing sans their starting junior center Zach Nuy due to an injury, Canby moved on as section champions with a 66-59 win over the defending Class A champion Eagles.

“I was really excited about playing here tonight,” Southwest Christian head coach Jamie Pap said. “I don’t want us to be scared of anybody, but I’ve been there before back in my playing days where somebody gets hurt and everybody else steps up. (Canby) did that tonight.”

The Eagles trailed throughout much of the first half, struggling to find answers for shots that simply weren’t falling.

Southwest senior Leighton Sampson tied the game at 16-all with 6:06 left in the first half and carried his team on his back into halftime with five made shots in a row.

The Eagles held a brief lead, at 24-23, with 1:41 left in the first half. Sampson had 17 first-half points en route to 28 for the evening. While Sampson played well through the first half, other answers weren’t coming to Southwest.

“Sampson absolutely played his heart out,” Pap said. “We needed to ride his back and needed somebody else to hit a few more shots. It just wasn’t in the cards.”

Canby junior Josh Gallegos led his team with nine first-half points, but it was still defense that the Lancers preached and received to carry them.

“We got the ball inside. We thought we could go inside on them and we did,” Canby head coach Jon Hansen said. “We stress defense all the time. That’s how you win ballgames. Southwest Christian won all three games down at the state tournament last year with it.”

Fueled by senior guard Michael Slaba’s scoring prowess, the Lancers began the second half on a 7-2 tear and built a lead of as many as nine points. Three consecutive shots from Nate Pfeifle took the Eagles to within two points, at 50-48, with 7:12 remaining, but Canby responded yet again to keep itself one step ahead of the Eagles the remainder of the way.

“Canby worked really hard and made more plays than we did,” Pap said. “All of our guys fought hard and I’m not going to make any excuses. It’s the wonderful world of sports. My hat is off to Canby. They did a nice job.

“A wounded team is always a very dangerous team,” he added. “I knew that going in. I was hoping we could get up on them early and see what happens, but that wasn’t in the cards.”

Slaba carried Canby with 21 points, 15 of which came in the second half. Gallegos tacked on 19 points and forward Kristian Leppke 12.

Sampson paced Southwest Christian with a game-high 28 points. Pfeifle added 15. Only five players for Southwest scored on the night.

Sampson and Pfeifle are just a small part of a senior class of seven the Eagles bid farewell to. It is a group that has served their program well over the past few years.

“I don’t think anybody has any idea how much time these kids spend in the offseason or how hard these guys work,” Pap said. “My hat is off to every one of these seniors.”

With its win, Canby makes its very first trip to the state tournament since making it in 1951. The tournament begins Thursday, March 13, at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Winners of first-round games advance to the semifinal round, held at Target Center.

“These juniors we have have been forced to play due to numbers, but they’ve been improving every year,” Hanson said of his junior group of eight. “They’ve done a great job. When we lost our center we kind of felt like the underdog, but that is how we like to do it. To go to state, it doesn’t get any better.”

SWC 30 59

Canby 30 66

SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Sampson 0-11-6-28, Pfeifle 3-2-2-15, Huisken 1-2-0-7, DeBoer 0-1-3-5, Nibbelink 0-1-2-4. Totals 4-17-13-59.

CANBY (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Slaba 1-6-6-21, Gallegos 0-8-3-19, Leppke 1-4-1-12, Johanson 1-2-1-8, Prokup 0-2-0-4, Cooper 0-1-0-2. Totals 3-23-11-66.

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