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Boys basketball: Springfield tops RRC in battle of state-ranked rivals

LAMBERTON -- Rivalry games are always tense. When both teams are state-ranked, they're even tenser. So when the boys basketball showdown between the Springfield and Red Rock Central finally ended Tuesday night 60-53 in the Tigers' favor, 6-1 fres...

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Tim Middagh/Daily Globe Red Rock Central's Taylor Bunting (10) launches a 3-pointer over Springfield defender Isaac Fink (23) on Tuesday in Lamberton.

LAMBERTON -- Rivalry games are always tense. When both teams are state-ranked, they’re even tenser.

So when the boys basketball showdown between the Springfield and Red Rock Central finally ended Tuesday night 60-53 in the Tigers’ favor, 6-1 freshman Decker Scheffler finally was able to smile and breathe easy.

“These games are fun,” said Scheffler after scoring a game-high 19 points. “It’s a big win. It’s kind of bragging rights. They’re not in our section, so we don’t get to see them again. So it’s nice to beat them like that.”

It was literally standing room only at the Lamberton high school gymnasium as the Tigers and the Falcons did battle. Springfield entered the game with a 19-2 record and a No. 7 ranking in Minnesota Class A boys basketball. Red Rock Central came in at 19-1 with a No. 8 state ranking. The two schools are only 16 miles apart and the rivalry goes back even farther than the miles can take them.

Red Rock Central scored first on Tuesday, and Springfield was held scoreless until 13:48 remained in the first half as Scheffler drained a 3-point shot. The Falcons, well aware that the Tigers are at their best when they’re on the run, were careful to get back quickly on defense. Springfield, unable to run, fell behind 15-7 at the 8:52 mark when 6-6 senior RRC forward Luke Engen converted a 3-point play (with free throw).

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Engen, who entered the game averaging 11 rebounds per contest, also did his part on the defensive end by sweeping the boards and helping to hold the Tigers to one shot per possession. Meanwhile, Springfield’s leading scorer, 6-3 sophomore Isaac Fink, was held scoreless until the 6:19 mark.

The Tigers finally pulled even with the Falcons at the 3:53 mark on a rare fast break whereupon Tanner Vogel caught a full-court pass and turned it into a 3-point play.

Leading 25-24 at the break, Springfield came out hot to start the second half as Scheffler and Branden Flock connected on long jumpers. But the Falcons recovered and kept it close until the Tigers created breathing room under the 9-minute mark on a Vogel 3-pointer from the left corner. That made it 48-39.

Nearly four minutes later, Springfield led by 10 points, 53-43, and the Falcons needed to make something happen. As the Tigers attempted to stretch the floor, the aggressive RRC defense -- led by Engen -- managed to come up with a few steals. But the Falcons didn’t convert often enough on the offensive end.

Vogel finished with 12 points and Flock added 10 for Springfield. Engen and wide-body center Trevor Pederson each scored 13 for RRC, with teammate Brady Rasmussen chipping in with 11.

“We made some shots when we had to. We didn’t play very well offensively, but they’re a very good defensive team,” said Springfield head coach Lance Larson after the game. But in the end he, like his players, were breathing easily again.

Larson said the win will aid his team down the road.

“Being in a tight game helps. We haven’t been in a lot of tight games. Getting in one and fighting through some adversity, it helps,” he said.

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Springfield 25 60 Red Rock Central 24 53

Related Topics: BOYS BASKETBALL
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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