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Top four seeds all triumphant in Section 3A boys hoops 'Super Saturday'

Fulda Raiders' Leighton Gehl (4) is blocked by R-T-R defenders Cooper Hansen (32) and Westin Kirk (42) on a drive to the hoop. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)1 / 4
Fulda's Matthias Kunerth (12) fires off a 3-point shot over the head of R-T-R defender Cooper Hansen (32). (Tim Middagh/The Globe)2 / 4
Murray County Central guard Justin Benda (11) drives past Red Rock Central forward Logan Pankonin (42) to put up the ball for two. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)3 / 4
Red Rock Central guard Brady Rasmussen (2) is denied a shot by heavy defense put up by MCC defender Noah Boerboom (12). (Tim Middagh/The Globe)4 / 4

WORTHINGTON -- All four of the top seeds were victorious Saturday in the Section 3A South boys basketball tournament.

Top-seeded Russell-Tyler-Ruthton defeated eighth-seeded Fulda 76-58 in the day’s first game before fourth-seeded Murray County Central won a close game over fifth-seeded Red Rock Central, 46-40.

Westbrook-Walnut Grove, the No. 2 seed, pulled away from seventh-seeded Hills-Beaver Creek 95-74 before third-seeded Southwest Christian topped sixth-seeded Adrian 74-56.

R-T-R and MCC will meet in the sub-section semifinal at 6 p.m. Thursday in Worthington. W-WG and SWC will follow.

Saturday was also a special day for two players. Fulda’s Leighton Gehl and H-BC’s Preston Wilhelmi each scored their 1,000th career point on Saturday.

R-T-R 76, Fulda 58

Saturday’s sub-section game between Russell-Tyler-Ruthton and Fulda wasn’t the first time those two teams had played.

On Feb. 10, the Knights handed the Raiders an 85-33 loss at Southwest Minnesota State University.

When the two teams met again on Saturday, the game was quite different.

Fulda was within 12 points midway through the second half, but came up just short in a loss to the top-seeded Knights.

“From earlier in the year when we played them at Southwest, our shots didn’t really go down,” Fulda head coach Andrew Oakland said. “So we really focused on staying confident in ourselves. We knew we were going to get shots tonight and we had to knock them down tonight.”

R-T-R was able to pressure Fulda early and built a 45-24 lead at halftime.

“They are really aggressive and they have a lot of pressure on you. We just had to stay calm and composed,” Oakland said. “We worked a lot on just how we wanted to get the down the floor. For the majority of the game, we did great with those things. There were a few stretches where they got us too many times in a row, but I’m proud of them for how they fought. A 50-point game up at Southwest became 18. They battled. We got it within 12 with a chance to go within 10. We fought the entire game with them.”

While the Raiders found themselves in a first-half hole, a highlight happened not long before the break as Leighton Gehl scored his 1,000th career point.

“I think it was probably the hardest one point of his 1,000,” Oakland said. “I’m glad he got it. He didn’t focus on 1,000. He still was looking for his teammates and he hit kids open. There were plenty of times he probably could have got a shot, but he was looking for his teammates. That’s the kind of kid that Leighton is.”

But out of the break, the Raiders started to get hot.

Matthias Kunerth (16 points) hit a triple and Levi Spittle made a shot. After another 3 from Kunerth, Tyler Madison (12 points) scored nine points in a span of two minutes as Fulda was within 12, 56-44.

However, the Knights answered with a 9-3 run to put some daylight between them and the Raiders. Fulda was within 14 in the final two minutes, but R-T-R scored the next seven to put the game away.

“They are a really good team,” Oakland said. “They are well coached, they know what they are supposed to do and they don’t force too many things. If it’s not there, they are going to work it around. They are going to find the best shot. That’s why they are the No. 1 team in our section and a ranked team in state. They are really good.”

Garrett Kern scored 21 points to lead the Knights, while Westin Kirk had 18. Payton Marquardt scored 12 points, while Dalton Slinger added 11 for the Raiders.

Fulda 24 58Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 45 76MCC 46, RRC 40

Murray County Central head coach Tim Bobeldyk told his team the day before Saturday’s sub-section game that free throws would make the difference.

It turned out, he was right.

With a one-point lead in the final minute against fifth-seeded Red Rock Central, fourth-seeded Murray County Central made five free throws to seal the six-point win.

“We said yesterday in practice that this game might come down to free throws,” Bobeldyk said. “It definitely did there at the end, and our guys converted.”

The game started with a slow and methodical pace for both teams. With five minutes remaining until halftime, MCC led 13-9.

“I think both the teams have that offensive philosophy where we try not to rush shots and try to be patient on offense, so that kind of limits the amount of possessions per game,” Bobeldyk said. “When you look at the score at halftime, that didn’t really surprise me. I’m proud of our guys, we got down in the second half and we could have easily folded, but we grinded back and found a way to win.”

MCC had the big run of the first half. Trailing 8-6, the Rebels went on a 13-1 run to lead 19-9.

“We wanted to establish our post play and get the ball inside and then create off of that, whether it’s a post taking their shot or a kicking out,” Bobeldyk said. “They haven’t played a lot of man defense this year, so they played a lot more man because we kind of took advantage of some things against their zone last time we played them.”

The Rebels led 21-16 at halftime and increased that lead to 25-18 after four quick points by Spencer Wajer. However, the Falcons had an answer. Noah Stavnes hit a jumper and Spencer Halland made back-to-back shots before Stavnes made a 3. Brady Rasmussen hit a jumper and two free throws as RRC went on a 13-0 run to lead 31-25.

Trailing 33-27, MCC scored the next seven points to take a one-point lead. The teams traded points back and forth, until Rasmussen hit a jumper with 3:07 left in the game to give RRC a 40-39 lead.

Those would be the Falcons’ final points as Mason Woldt made a shot, Justin Benda made two free throws and Nate Everson made three foul shots to send MCC to a six-point victory and a date with top-seeded Russell-Tyler-Ruthton on Thursday. R-T-R defeated MCC 55-33 on Feb. 23.

“You take care of the ball against them and you don’t give them 20 points in transition off of turnovers,” Bobeldyk said. “We saw them a week and a half ago. We had a five-point game at halftime and we kind of lost our legs -- it was our fourth game in five days -- and they took advantage of that in the second half. But it starts with taking care of the ball and not giving them any easy shots.”  

Tyler Groves led MC with 15 points. Rasmussen scored 20 for RRC.

Red Rock Central 16 40Murray County Central 21 46W-WG 95, H-BC 74

For much of Saturday’s game, seventh-seeded Hills-Beaver Creek gave second-seeded Westbrook-Walnut Grove all it could handle.

“Our kids battled. We hung in there for a long time. They are a good team and they shot well today. It’s tough to keep up with them when they score like that,” H-BC head coach Steve Wiertzema said. “They have a lot of weapons and a lot of length. They go to the boards well and they got offensive rebounds on us. When you get those offensive rebounds, you always score.”

But the Chargers were too much as a 50-point second half led them to a victory.

“There were a couple things we were prepared to do today that didn’t really go our way in the first half,” W-WG head coach Derrick Jenniges said. “Credit to Hills. Josh Kueter coming out in the first half and giving them a 12-point effort, a lot of our attention was going to be on Jax (Wysong) and Preston (Wilhelmi) and I thought we did a really good job of that in the first half. Some of their other guys really countered that and made us change what we wanted to do as far as defensively.”

Wysong -- who scored 14 points -- had four at halftime, and Wilhelmi was held to three first-half. He finished with 21 points -- the exact number he needed to score his 1,000th career point.

“He’s a good shooter,” Wiertzema said. “He puts in a lot of time. He’s rewarded with it by the time he puts in.”

However, the Patriots weren’t able to keep up with the high-powered Chargers.

“Offensively, I thought our guys did a good job of moving the ball and attacking, especially to start the second half,” Jenniges said. “There were spurts in there where we shot a lot of perimeter jump shots in a row and we don’t really want to fall into that pattern. When they are going in, that’s great. We were able to get on the offensive glass a little bit more in the second half and get in the middle of the zone a little bit and I think that benefited us.”

Tyson Elzenga scored a game-high 31 points to lead W-WG, while Anthony Ross had 24. Kyle Kuehl scored 14 and Matt DePrez added 11 for the Chargers.

“Sometimes it takes a little while to figure out which combination might be best for you on a given day,” Jenniges said. “That maybe was the case here today. We were trying to match our defensive combinations and ideas up with what was going to work best offensively. It took a little while for that to happen. But it’s good to advance and looking forward to the next one.”

The next one will come against the second-seeded Southwest Christian Eagles on Thursday in Worthington.

“We’ll take it one at a time,” Jenniges said. “We had a really tough and exciting game with Southwest. We had do some things at the end to come out on top.”  

Hills-Beaver Creek 36 74Westbrook-Walnut Grove 45 95 SWC 74, Adrian 56

Survive and advance. That’s all Southwest Christian head coach Jamie Pap wanted on Saturday.

The Eagles did just that, as they used a 13-1 run in the first half to defeat sixth-seeded Adrian.

“It’s what I talked about to the guys just now, we’re moving on and we get to go to practice on Monday,” Pap said. “That’s what it’s about. It doesn’t alway have to be the prettiest in the world in tournaments, as long as you’re moving on, that’s all that matters. Our girls had the same thing last night, it didn’t always click for them, but they found a way to win so they are moving on too. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Dragons hung with the Eagles early as a three-point play by Christian Weidert and a 3 from Brady Henning gave them an 8-6 lead.

But that lead didn’t last long as AJ Vanderby took over inside for SWC. He scored eight of the 13 points in the key run that gave the Eagles the lead.

“We always say we have AJ inside, so we want to be able to use him inside and be able to hit some stuff some outside and get some mid range shots in there,” Pap said.

Adrian was with five, 26-21, after a Skylar Polzine shot, but Parker Kooima answered with a 3 as the Eagles closed the first half on a 10-2 run to lead 36-23 at the break.

“I thought if a few more 3s would have fell in the first half, we just couldn’t get enough guys going,” Pap said. “I thought Kooima did a nice job coming off the bench and hit a couple 3s for us. A couple other guys weren’t hitting, so we had to grind it out a little bit.”

SWC pushed the lead to 22 early in the second half after a drive by Logan Walhof, a free throw from Isaac Jasper, a jumper by Kooima and a shot from Avery Pater.  

The Dragons weren’t able to get any close to the Eagles as the game finished with an 18-point margin.

With the win, the Eagles will face second-seeded Westbrook-Walnut Grove on Thursday. The Chargers handed SWC an 82-80 loss on Jan. 30.

“We’ll have to play really good to beat them,” Pap said. “We’ll figure out a way to get a game plan together and we’ll be ready to go come Thursday.”

Ryan Wieneke scored 24 points to lead the Dragons, while Polzine finished with 10 points. Vanderby led the Eagles with 20 points, while Kooima scored 13 and Pater added 11.

Adrian 23 56Southwest Christian 36 74
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