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Section 3A boys basketball: Southwest Christian eliminates defending state champion R-T-R

Southwest Minnesota Christian guard Trey Huisken (3) delivers a shot against Russell-Tyler-Ruthton during South Section 3A boys basketball action Thursday night in Worthington. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- The Edgerton Southwest Christian Eagles knocked off the defending state Class A boys basketball champion Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Knights Thursday night in Worthington. But it’s never easy to beat the champs, and in the locker room after the game SWC head coach Jamie Pap told his players that they’d just been through a “war.”

It wasn’t until senior Isaac Jasper converted one of two free throws with 8.5 seconds remaining -- giving the Eagles a four-point 71-67 lead -- that their fans could begin to breathe easy in the South Section 3A semifinal game. Final score: 72-67.

“We just beat out a very, very well-coached, senior-dominated team. They obviously know how to win, because they won it all last year,” said Pap. “Give my guys credit. We had a lead at halftime, they took the lead, and we didn’t falter. We still came back and fought for it.”

On Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Southwest Christian (22-5) will contend with Westbrook-Walnut Grove for the sub-section championship, beginning at 11 a.m. The winner of that game will play for a state tournament berth next Thursday at SMSU, at 8 p.m.

Saturday’s sub-section title game was moved up from its originally scheduled 6 p.m. start due to expected bad weather.

Russell-Tyler-Ruthton’s senior Hansen twins, Carter and Cooper, were typically outstanding against Southwest, with Carter scoring 19 points and Cooper pouring in 22. Southwest Christian, on the other hand, used great balance.

Junior guard Kade Fey, who was scoreless in the first half, drained four 3-point shots in the first 10 and a half minutes of the second half and finished with a team-high 16 points. Isaac Jasper was smooth as silk inside the arc, scoring 14 points. Avery Pater and Jacob Van Dam both tallied 12 points for the winners.

Few teams play team basketball as well as the Eagles, and team basketball was on full display against the Knights. Top-seeded Southwest committed only eight turnovers in the game, compared to 14 by fourth-seeded R-T-R. The Knights out-rebounded Southwest 38-31, but Van Dam had 11 for the Eagles while Pater and Fey both had six and Jasper five. Van Dam and Pater had four assists apiece. Pater had four steals and Fey had two blocks.

Fey’s long-range shooting was key in the second half.

“They finally started going,” he said. “I just finally got the jitters out of me, ‘cuz this is my first major tournament game.”

Fey didn’t play much on varsity last year, but the 6-3 junior became an important contributor this season.

There were many important contributions by Fey and his teammates Thursday night. The biggest cheer of the game was sent up for Shane Van Essen, who banked in a long 3-point shot as the buzzer sounded to end the first half. It gave the Eagles a 35-28 lead at intermission.

Despite that, the Knights came out strong to start the second half, scoring the first five points. Midway in the second half, Southwest lost its lead, but got it back aided in part by 3-point shots.

Fey made two free throws with 38 seconds left for a 68-64 SWC advantage. Eight seconds later R-T-R got within a point on a Jared Hauswedell 3. After a time-out, a deep in-bounds pass to Jasper resulted in a layup. R-T-R missed on its next possession, Jasper made a free throw to up the difference to four points, and Van Dam made another free throw at 6.1 seconds to end the scoring.

Pap said later that for the second half, he told his players to create more movement into the lane, to do some cutters, and to try to spread the Knights out.

“Mainly what we were trying to do was get the Hansens off the perimeter,” he said.

Whatever they did, it worked.

“Toughness,” said Pap. “We had the will to win.”

Southwest 35 72

R-T-R 28 67

SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Huisken 1-1-2-7, Fey 4-0-4-16, Pater 1-3-3-12, Jasper 0-5-4-14, J.Van Dam 1-3-3-12, Decker 0-1-0-2, S.Van Essen 1-2-0-7, Vander Haar 0-1-0-2. Totals 8-16-16-72.

RUSSELL-TYLER-RUTHTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Hess 0-1-0-2, Ca.Hansen 0-7-5-19, Coo.Hansen 2-8-0-22, Kelley 1-0-4-7, Baune 0-1-0-2, Hauswedell 1-2-0-7, Kerr 0-2-4-8. Totals 4-21-13-67.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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