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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Eagles advance to semifinals

Joe Brown/Red Wing Republican Eagl Southwest Minnesota Christian's Klint Knutson (13) tries to fight through Walker-Hackensack-Akeley's Caleb Ginos (3) and Anthony Fisher for a layup in the first half of Thursday's Class 1A quarterfinal game at Williams Arena. Knutson was blocked on the play1 / 2
Joe Brown/Red Wing Republican Eagle Southwest Minnesota Christian's Gabe Vander Veen (right) works around a Walker-Hackensack-Akeley defender in the post during Thursday's Class 1A quarterfinal game at Williams Arena.2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS -- Soaring to early leads of 7-0, 16-4 and 25-8, the Southwest Minnesota Christian Eagles flew out of the gates in impressive fashion Thursday afternoon at Williams Arena and advanced to the Class A semifinal round of the 2013 state boys' basketball tournament with a 68-38 victory over Section 8A champion Walker-Hackensack-Akeley in the last of four quarterfinal games.

The victorious Eagles (28-1) will tangle with undefeated Upsala (31-0) at 2 p.m. today at Target Center for the right to play in Saturday's Class A state championship game at noon.

Upsala, the tournament's No. 2 seed and the state's fourth-ranked Class A team in Minnesota Basketball News' final poll, defeated Battle Lake 71-60 in Thursday's third quarterfinal game.

"It feels great to come here again and play so well in the first game," exclaimed a very happy eighth-year SWMC head coach Jamie Pap after talking with his team following Thursday's 30-point win. "We got all 13 boys in and now, for sure, we get to play two more games."

It was the 24th consecutive victory for the team-oriented Eagles, who combine excellent team defense with crisp offensive ball movement as they frequently simply outclass their opponents.

Ten players scored for Southwest in the contest and all 13 showed up with numbers on the final statistics sheet, released by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).

"We have good balance and all the kids like it when each player is able to contribute," summed up Pap. "We look forward to playing Upsala and know that our defense will have to be at its best."

The Eagles certainly shined on defense early against W-H-A, limiting the Wolves to four points in the game's first six minutes and 32 seconds.

Meanwhile, Southwest scored 16 of its own, as Klint Knutson scored on a trio of drives, Nate Pfeifle drilled a pair of 3-pointers from the left corner and Dominic Nibbelink scored twice on transition layups.

The Wolves scored on a drive by Chris Duff (team-high 13 points) at the 11:28 mark, closing the gap to 16-6, but the Eagles responded with a 9-2 burst which spread the lead to 25-8 with six minutes showing on the first-half clock.

Then, after W-H-A countered with four points of its own, SWMC junior center Leighton Sampson went to work, scoring six straight points and the Eagles owned a 31-12 advantage with 3:49 to play.

A basket by Nibbelink, two buckets by Sampson and three points by Gabe Vander Veen increased SWMC's lead to 40-15 before Caleb Ginos hit a buzzer-beater for the Wolves, leaving the intermission score at 40-17.

Sampson finished the first half with 15 points, including 10 in the closing 4:24.

Nibbelink 3-pointer puts brakes on 5:09 scoreless span in second-half

Knutson scored his fifth field goal of the game nine seconds into the second half, increasing the Eagles' lead to 25.

But, then -- for a span of five minutes and nine seconds -- Southwest, uncharacteristically, did not score.

It's defense, however, kept the Eagles in command as W-H-A's 9-0 run (five points from Duff, four from Ginos) only sliced the lead to 42-26.

Then, Nibbelink -- who had dished off a trio of nifty first-half assists -- sank one of his long, high-arching 3-pointers from the left wing and the Eagles were soaring again.

A layup by Sampson (assist Clayton Huisken) was followed by a coast-to-coast drive from Nibbelink and with 11:49 to play the game, the Eagles quick 7-0 burst -- over a span of 59 seconds -- had built the advantage to 23, leading 49-26.

The Wolves responded with a 3-pointer by Austin Richter and a jumper by Ginos, and later with a pair of free throws by the hard-working Anthony Fisher (11 points, game-high 11 rebounds). But those two 18-point margins (49-31 and 51-33) were as close as the spread would get.

The Eagles answered with a rebound basket by Vander Veen, a loose-ball scoop and bucket by Eric Talsma (seven rebounds, team-high four assists, three steals) and a three-point play from Nibbelink (after an offensive rebound) to stake themselves to a 56-33 lead with 8:38 remaining.

Nibbelink (10 second-half points) scored again before junior reserve guard Luke Robinson connected on a 3-pointer from the right corner, extending the lead to 61-36.

Huisken followed with a layup, Cole Vis converted a three-point play and Silas Top scored on a drive -- following one of Luke Nibbelink's three steals -- to complete the Eagles' scoring.

Sampson and Dominic Nibbelink topped SWMC's scoring chart with 17 and 16 points, respectively, while Knutson (10), Vander Veen (seven) and Pfeifle (six) combined for 23 more.

Sampson had five rebounds, three steals and blocked a shot, while both Huisken (shot block, two steals) and Pfeifle distributed three assists. Knutson (two assists, two steals) and Pfeifle each had a trio of rebounds for the Eagles, while Vis and Kaleb Schelhaas both had a pair of rebounds and a steal.

Robinson snagged a couple of rebounds, while Jay DeBoer (offensive rebound) and Top (steal) also provided late-game sparks for the winning Eagles, who shot a sparkling 47.6 percent from the field, making 30 of 63 attempts.



W-H-A (27-3): Ginos 4 0-0 8; Richter 1 0-0 3; Kimball 1 0-2 2; Duff 3 6-9 13; Fisher 4 2-2 11; Ovitt 0 1-2 1. Totals: 13 9-15 38.

SWC (28-1): Pfeifle 2 0-0 6; Knutson 5 0-0 10; Nibbelink 7 1-1 16; Talsma 1 0-0 2; Sampson 8 1-1 17; Huisken 1 0-0 2; Vis 1 1-1 3; Robinson 1 0-0 3; Top 1 0-0 2; Vander Veen 3 1-1 7. Totals: 30 4-4 68.

Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 17 21 -- 38

Southwest Christian 40 28 -- 68

3-Point Goals: W-H-A 3 (Richter, Duff, Fisher); SWC 4 (Pfeifle 2, Nibbelink, Robinson). Rebounds: W-H-A 27 (Ginos 4, Kimball, Duff 3, Fisher 11, Theisen, Ovitt, Swedberg, Pikala, Schneider); Home 37 (Pfeifle 3, Knutson 3, Nibbelink 2, Talsma 7, Sampson 5, Huisken, Schelhaas 2, Vis 2, Robinson 2, Vander Veen 5, DeBoer). Total Fouls (Fouled Out): W-H-A 9 (none); SWC 12 (none). Technical Fouls: None. Assists: W-H-A 5 (Ginos 2, Richter, Kimball, Duff); SWC 16 (Pfeifle 3, Knutson 2, Nibbelink 3, Talsma 4, Huisken 3, Vander Veen). Steals: W-H-A 8 (Ginos 3, Kimball, Duff 2, Kellogg); SWC 16 (Knutson 2, Talsma 3, Sampson 3, Huisken 2, Schelhaas, Vis, Top, L. Nibbelink 3). Blocked Shots: W-H-A 1 (Ginos); SWC 4 (Sampson, Huisken, Vander Veen 2). Turnovers: W-H-A 24, SWC 13.