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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Chargers crush Rebels

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe The Chargers' Matt Otto (25) takes a shot over a Rebels defender during a Class A Section 3 Southern Division boys' basketball first round game Thursday in Westbrook.

WESTBROOK -- A 13-0 run to close out the first half gave Westbrook-Walnut Grove all the momentum it needed Thursday night, as the seventh-seeded Chargers advanced past the tenth-seeded Murray County Central Rebels with a 70-45 victory in the opening round of the Section 3A South Boys Basketball Tournament.

The Chargers improved to 10-15 overall, as W-WG advanced to "Super Saturday" in Worthington where the Chargers will play second-seeded Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m.

"We played two very competitive games with MCC earlier in the season (a 59-52 Chargers' win in Slayton on Jan. 4 and a 72-60 Chargers' win at home on Feb. 15)," W-WG head coach Derrick Jenniges said. "I thought our guys stuck to the game plan really well. Even when we got down there in the first half, I thought we stuck to our plan and got the type of shots that we wanted."

Following a Sam Erickson long 3-pointer from the left wing that gave the Rebels their only lead of the game with 7:23 left in the first half at 16-14, Taylor Lindaman answered a minute later with the first his of four 3's to give the Chargers the lead for good.

The Rebels stayed within one possession for the next two minutes as Cole Bly responded to an Andrew Merrick bucket in the paint with a free-throw line jumper and Mitch Reinsma countered a Knutson basket to make it 21-20 in favor of the Chargers with 4:28 left in the half.

However, the final four minutes of the half belonged to the hosts as Knutson started the 13-0 run with a bucket off penetration following a Lindaman steal and then Matt Otto collected a steal and assisted Shane Buchman to make it 25-20 at 2:28 of the first half.

A minute later, Lindaman assisted Buchman, who was fouled but made a long 2 from atop the key before missing the free throw. Following a rebound that was gathered by Knutson after the missed charity shot, Knutson assisted Lindaman, who knocked down a right-corner 3 at 1:17 to push the lead to 10 (30-20).

Fourteen seconds later, Otto turned another steal into a layup before the Chargers finished the half with Knutson corralling a long defensive rebound and running the length of the court for a buzzer-beating layup in the final five seconds of the half.

"Matt Otto came off the bench and sparked us at the end of the first half," Jenniges said. "He got his hands on three loose balls and we were able to get a few easy baskets. Then Alex (Knutson) got that rebound and ran it down inside five seconds to score a layup at the buzzer.

"That was a huge momentum swing for us. The contributions off the bench from Matt Otto and Shane Buchman were really a big deal for the rest of the team."

Buchman and Lindaman led Westbrook-Walnut Grove with 16 points each, while Knutson finished with 11 points and seven assists and Reed Bakken added seven points.

The Chargers used the momentum they had built at end of the first half to push the lead to 22 points (50-28) in the first six minutes of the second half. Bakken and Buchman each knocked down early 3's, while Knutson assisted Lindaman on a pair of triples. Knutson added a pair of field goals in that span, while the Rebels' scoring came from Bly (three free throws and a 2) and Jack Thony (right-wing 3).

"We all played really well," Lindaman said of the Chargers' effort. "We got open looks and everybody shot well."

However, MCC couldn't convert its shots into points as the Rebels finished the game shooting 23 percent from the field (11-for-44 on 2's and 4-for-22 on 3's).

"(The Chargers) hit some big shots at the end of the first half, while we rushed our offense a little bit and tried to match them shot-for-shot," MCC head coach Tim Bobeldyk said. "Westbrook-Walnut Grove did a really nice job of working the ball and moving without the ball and creating shots, while we kind of rushed things. We had one pass and we took a shot and didn't really create anything with our offense."

Following Bly's team-high 13 points, Zach Ostman finished with seven points while Thony and Erickson (four assists) each had six points.

"We played good team defense," Lindaman said. "Reed Bakken and Shane Buchman played good 'D' on (MCC's) good shooter, Sam Erickson, and shut him down pretty well."

Early on, both sides struggled from the field as the teams were tied at 7 through the first 6 ½ minutes. Knutson buried a 3 from the left wing off a Bakken assist to open the scoring 57 seconds in before Logan Kluis turned an Erickson steal into MCC's first points 2 minutes later.

Following off-setting baskets by Bly and Merrick, Grant Everson tied the game at 7 with a left-corner 3 off an Erickson assist that answered a W-WG bucket off an inbound play by Aaron Hass.

MCC ended its season with a 3-19 record and graduates six seniors -- Thony, Bly, Erickson, Darien Schreiber, Aaron Boock and Max Whitehead.

"They are guys with great character," Bobeldyk said of his senior class. "They've worked hard all season and have done anything that I have asked of them by accepting their roles, whether it was starting or coming off the bench. They are just a group of high-character guys."

Meanwhile, Jenniges has one practice (today) to prepare W-WG for Saturday's matchup with the 25-1 R-T-R Knights.

"R-T-R is 25-1 for a reason," Jenniges said. "They are the only team in the section that we haven't played this year, so we hope that we can play that underdog role (on Saturday) -- get out there and give it 110 percent and let the ball bounce where it may."



MURRAY COUNTY CENTRAL (3-20): Thony 2 1-2 6, Kluis 1 2-2 4, Ostman 1 2-2 4, Bass 3 1-1 7, Bly 4 5-6, Peterson 0 0-1 0, Bakke 0 0-0 0, Erickson 2 0-0 6, Boerboom 0 0-0 0, Everson 1 0-0 3, Schrieber 0 0-0 0, Woldt 0 0-0 0, Boock 0 0-0 0, Reinsma 1 0-0 2, Whitehead 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 11-14 45.

WESTBROOK-WALNUT GROVE (10-15): Merrick 2 0-0 4, Kockelman 0 2-2 2, Lindaman 5 2-2 16, Jarmer 0 0-0 0, Williams 0 0-0 0, Berg 1 0-0 2, Bakken 1 4-5 7, A. Knutson 4 2-2 11, Buchman 7 1-2 16, M. Otto 1 0-0 2, Joel 0 0-2 0, Hass 2 0-2 4, Christians 1 0-0 3, J. Otto 0 0-0 0, R. Knutson 0 0-0 0, Schoborg 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 12-18 70.

Murray County Central 20 25 -- 45

Westbrook-Walnut 34 36 -- 70

3-Point Goals: MCC 4 (Erickson 2, Thony, Everson); W-WG 8 (Lindaman 4, Bakken, A. Knutson, Buchman, Christians). Total Fouls (Fouled Out): MCC 17 (Erickson); W-WG 14 (None). Technical Fouls: None. Assists: MCC 7 (Erickson 4); W-WG 12 (A. Knutson 7). Steals: MCC 5 (Thony, Ostman, Bly, Erickson, Whitehead); W-WG 6 (M. Otto 3, Lindaman, Buchman, Hass). Blocked Shots: MCC 2 (Bly, Erickson); W-WG 2 (Buchman, Schoborg). Turnovers: MCC 14; W-WG 14.