PREP BOYS' BASKETBALL: Eagles escape upset bid from PatsWORTHINGTON — Trailing by four points with less than three minutes remaining in the game Saturday afternoon, the top-seeded Southwest Christian Eagles scored the final seven points and avoided an upset by claiming an exciting 61-58 victory over the eighth-seeded Hills-Beaver Creek Patriots in the quarterfinals of the Section 3A South high school boys’ basketball tournament at Worthington High School.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Trailing by four points with less than three minutes remaining in the game Saturday afternoon, the top-seeded Southwest Christian Eagles scored the final seven points and avoided an upset by claiming an exciting 61-58 victory over the eighth-seeded Hills-Beaver Creek Patriots in the quarterfinals of the Section 3A South high school boys’ basketball tournament at Worthington High School.
SWC (23-1) advances to the sub-section semifinals Thursday night in Worthington, as the Eagles will play fifth-seeded Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (18-8) at 6 p.m. H-BC ends its season with an overall record of 11-15.
“That was one heck of an effort by our kids,” summed up H-BC head coach Steve Wiertzema. “We played with no fear and gained confidence as we continued to score and find ways to get defensive stops in the second half. But SWC is the top team in our sub-section for a reason, and they did enough to win the game.”
The Patriots trailed by 10 points (37-27) at halftime before launching an impressive 18-8 rally within the initial 5:28 of the second half — pulling even with the Eagles (at 45) with 12:32 on the clock.
Brady Vaughn and Jordan Larson (nine points, eight steals, seven rebounds and five assists) delivered back-to-back, coast-to-coast layups off of steals to cap that surge, as H-BC was suddenly right back in the game.
SWC, though, kept the lead and went up by six (53-47) with 7:30 remaining. Damon Vander Maten, who fired in six 3-pointers (three in each half) for 18 timely points, knocked down a long trey from the left wing to help the Eagles stay in front.
But H-BC wouldn’t go away and scored seven straight points to take the lead (54-53) at the 4:25 mark. Jeff Sandbulte (14 points) nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key before a pair of assists by Larson — the first to Dylan Gehrke (21 points, five assists) for a hoop underneath and the second to Sandbulte for a fast-break layup — put the Patriots on top for the first time since they led 3-0 and 3-2 early on.
A free throw by SWC’s Zach Huisken (eight points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four blocks) tied the score at 54 with 3:41 left, but Sandbulte answered with a tough leaner in the lane and then drilled a pull-up jumper from 17 feet out along the left baseline to give H-BC a 58-54 lead with 2:47 to go.
Vander Maten (five rebounds) responded with a 3-pointer from the left corner 20 seconds later, and the Eagles regained the lead (59-58) when Klint Knutson (10 points, three assists) slipped a pass inside to Andrew Top (23 points, 11 rebounds and three assists) for a basket with 1:25 to play.
SWC got a trio of defensive stops the rest of the way — including one when Knutson drew a charge with 20.2 seconds left and another when a well-contested Patriots’ 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short — and Top sank two free throws with 16.7 seconds remaining to seal a thrilling 61-58 victory.
“This was not a surprise to us, as H-BC is a very good team that is loaded with talent and tournament experience,” SWC head coach Jamie Pap said. “You can throw records and seeds out the window at this time of the year, especially when these two teams meet. Our guys responded to the challenge and we get to have practice Monday (today).”
Combining seven 3-pointers with crisp passing, offensive-rebound chances and the interior defense of Huisken in the first half, the Eagles built leads of 7-3, 14-7, 18-11, 23-16 and 31-20 before going into the locker room up 37-27. Huisken blocked or altered several shots in addition to delivering a big dunk off an assist from Top to keep SWC in control.
But H-BC, which hustled well in various zone defenses, began to slow down the Eagles’ high-scoring attack and came up with lots of steals and loose balls. Seth Nuffer (10 points, 13 rebounds) scored twice inside early in the second half, while Gehrke fired in a pair of 3-pointers to begin the Patriots’ comeback bid.
H-BC 27 31 — 58
SWC 37 24 — 61
H-BC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Larson 1-3-0-9, Vaughn 0-1-2-4, Gehrke 3-4-4-21, Sandbulte 2-3-2-14, Nuffer 0-5-0-10. Totals: 6-16-8-58.
SWC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Knutson 2-1-2-10, Top 3-5-4-23, Nibbelink 0-1-0-2, Vander Maten 6-0-0-18, Z. Huisken 0-3-2-8. Totals: 11-10-8-61.