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Section 3A boys basketball: SWC goes to 24-2

BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Murray County Central’s Grant Rohrer drives into Southwest Christian’s Leighton Sampson during Tuesday night’s Section 3A game in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON —Defending Class A state champion Southwest Minnesota Christian effectively utilized a combination of quick-break baskets, along with sharp three-point shooting —from all angles — to pull away from a scrappy Murray County Central squad in the Section 3A South semifinal Tuesday evening at the tournament-rich Worthington Senior High School gymnasium, earning a 64-37 victory.

The Eagles (24-2) advance to Friday’s sub-section championship game where they will tangle with Red Rock Conference rival Ellsworth (21-6) at Southwest State Minnesota University (SMSU) in Marshall. Game time is 6 p.m. at the R/A Facility, where both schools have experienced much past tournament success.

After getting off to an explosive start Tuesday, the Eagles had to work hard to counter the double-down defensive tactics of MCC, which worked its game plan well in the first half and trailed by just six points, 22-16, three minutes and 20 seconds prior to the intermission break.

But SWC closed out the half on a 9-2 run and then stretched its 31-18 halftime advantage into a huge 53-22 lead with an impressive 22-4 surge over the first 9:09 of the second half.

“We had to work hard, but we got things done,” exclaimed Eagles’ head coach Jamie Pap. “MCC gave us a good battle early on, especially on the inside. We were able to get some quick baskets after some of their scores and then we got hot from the outside at the beginning of the second half.”

The Eagles took a 5-0 lead in the game’s first 39 seconds, as Nate Pfeifle (17 points, seven rebounds) drilled a high-arching three-pointer from the left wing and Leighton Sampson (13 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, two blocks) stole a Rebels’ pass and drove the court for a two-handed slam dunk.

But another Pfeifle trey was SWC’s only basket during the next seven minutes, as the Rebels were doing a superb job defensively, including a trio of shot blocks by 6-4 sophomore center Grant Rohrer.

SWC senior point guard Clayton Huisken (nine assists) scored on a dandy drive at the 10:10 mark and Sampson converted on a second effort after getting a shot rejected by Rohrer, 58 seconds later, and the Eagles were up 12-5.

Pfeifle’s third three-pointer lifted SWC to a 19-8 advantage at the 6:27 mark, before the Rebels mounted an 8-3 run which sliced the gap to 22-16.

A jumper by Grant Everson, a three-pointer by Everson and a trey from Jaden Boerboom highlighted that MCC burst.

The Eagles, however, had a real highlight play during that sequence when Huisken fired a long cross-court bounce pass to Jake Robinson for quick basket following Everson’s first basket.

“That was a big basket for us,” praised Pap. “Just a great job of getting the ball in quick and making a super pass for an easy layup right after they make a big shot.”

Robinson, who finished with 13 points for the Eagles, drilled a top-of-the-key trey and SWC had a 25-16 lead with 2:10 to play.

Baskets by Pfeifle, Luke Nibbelink and Sampson countered an offensive rebound bucket by MCC’s Logan Kluis, as the Eagles took a 13-point edge into the break.

Eagles open second half with four three-pointers

After Sampson and MCC’s Zach Ostman (team-high 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals) exchanged inside hoops, the Eagles earned a 23-point lead on the strength of four three-pointers —from four different players.

Huisken connected from the right wing, Silas Top drilled one from the left corner, Robinson sank a trey from the right corner and Pfeifle hit a triple from straight on.

“It’s hard to defend that kind of shooting when you have to be concerned with their inside game, too,” noted MCC head coach Tim Bobeldyk. “They were hitting from all angles, with different shooters each time.”

MCC’s only basket during that span was by Everson (inside cut off a pass from Ostman).

But the overall result of that surge was a 45-22 lead for the Eagles with 10:45 remaining.

Sampson scored down low (assist Huiksen) and Jay DeBoer converted on a three-point play off a dandy pass sequence from Huisken to Nibbelink to DeBoer, increasing the lead to 50-22.

A driving basket from Nibbelink and a free throw by Nibbelink capped SWC’s 22-4 run, giving the Eagles a 53-22 lead with 8:51 to play.

Three baskets by Rohrer (10 points, five rebounds, four blocks) finally moved MCC off the 22-point mark, but three-pointers from Pfeifle and Robinson stretched the spread to 59-28 with 5:09 left as Pap cleared his bench.

Ostman netted six points for the Rebels in the remaining time and Seth Bass scored on a drive, while Jacob Kreun (three-pointer) and Brent Gorter (right-side drive) scored for the Eagles.

There were just 19 turnovers in the cleanly-played contest, as the Eagles lost possession only seven times and the Rebels turned the ball over a dozen times.

MCC, which starts three juniors and a sophomore, finished its season with an overall record of 10-17.

MCC 18 37

SW Christian 31 64

MCC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Kluis 0-1-0-2, Ostman 0-4-4-12, Bass 0-1-0-2, Everson 1-2-0-7, Boerboom 1-0-0-3, Rohrer 0-4-2-10, Petersen 0-0-1-1. Totals 2-12-7-37.

SW CHRISTIAN (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Huisken 1-1-0-5, Robinson 3-2-0-13, Pfeifle 5-1-0-17, Kreun 1-0-0-3, Nibbelink 0-2-0-4, Top 1-0-0-3, Gorter 0-1-0-2, DeBoer 0-1-2-4, Sampson 0-5-3-13. Totals 11-13-5-67.