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High school basketball: Falcons boys, girls sit atop Red Rock Conference

LAMBERTON -- Minnesota winters get awfully long and dark, but having a first-place basketball team can help to brighten things up a little bit. And having two is even better. That's just what they have at Red Rock Central. Both the boys and girls...

LAMBERTON -- Minnesota winters get awfully long and dark, but having a first-place basketball team can help to brighten things up a little bit.

And having two is even better. That’s just what they have at Red Rock Central.

Both the boys and girls basketball teams sit atop the Red Rock Conference standings with undefeated records. The boys are 13-0 overall and 10-0 in conference play, while the girls are 14-3 and 11-0.

“It does definitely lead to some brighter hallways this winter, especially when both teams are both in first place,” boys head coach Brian Walker said. “That probably hasn’t ever happened this late in the season.”

The success of each team has worked to fuel the success of the other.

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“Obviously they see the success the boys team is having,” RRC girls head coach Kylie Salfer said. “It’s a great thing to have at our school right now, we’re building off each other. The intra-school friendly competition is great. You want to continue to be successful if the other team is successful.”

Both teams lean on their experienced leaders to help them find success.

The boys have four four-year varsity players in 6-foot-5 senior center Trevor Pederson, 6-6 senior forward Luke Engen, 6-0 junior guard Brady Rasmussen and 5-9 junior guard Sam Hansen. Rasmussen and Hansen both played as eighth graders.

Meanwhile, the girls are led by 5-11 senior guard Rachel Kedl and 5-11 senior forward Ramsey Piotter, both who played as eighth graders.

“The senior group has been through a lot,” Walker said. “They had to play younger than they probably should have because of numbers. A lot of the girls have played for four years as well. They’ve built some camaraderie between the teams.”

For the four-year players on the boys team, this season’s success is a testament to the hard work they have put in to improve their games since a 1-win season in 2013-14. This season’s win total is already the largest this group of Falcons has seen in its varsity career after a 6-19 mark in 2014-15 and an 11-16 mark in 2015-16.

“Our seniors definitely took their lumps,” Walker said.

Now, instead of going into matchups hunting for an upset, the Falcons are the hunted.

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“Everybody is going to come in here and look to knock us off,” Walker said. “The big thing is to stay focused and have the one game at a time mentality. You can’t look ahead.”

They especially can’t afford to look ahead this week, as they have a number of top-notch opponents on the docket in a short time. Today they head to Adrian to play the 8-6 Dragons, Thursday they host the conference’s No. 2 team, 9-3, 7-2 Southwest Christian, and Friday they play at 6-7 Murray County Central.

To continue through the week unscathed, RRC is going to rely on their seniors inside. Both Engen and Pederson average 14.2 points per game and Engen averages 12 rebounds per game, while Pederson averages 8.

“Our length helps us out,” Walker said. “We can go three across at 6-5. We do really well with our rebounding and stopping opponents’ second chances. And we’ve kept teams from getting good shots. Teams are only shooting 32 percent against us this year.”

Meanwhile, the Falcon girls are looking to build on a recent pair of quality wins, topping the conference’s No. 2 and No. 3 teams four days apart. They defeated Hills-Beaver Creek 66-43 on Jan. 13 and Southwest Christian 75-58 on Jan. 17. SWC had only one loss and was still undefeated in conference when it played RRC.

Big regular season wins aren’t new to the returning Falcon girls. They went 18-6 last season and 16-7 in 2014-15. But they hope to build on their regular season success to get the wins in the postseason.

“For this group, moving forward, it’s about continuing to pass some hurdles we haven’t done before,” Salfer said. “There are still some teams we haven’t come out ahead against before. It’s those little things, those benchmarks. And then you look at the postseason. We have progressed every year, but we haven’t had those big wins in the biggest games -- the section championship or obviously at state.”

If the girls keep playing they way they have been, the coach thinks they stand a good chance of reaching those goals.

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“If we peak at the right time, we can do some good things,” Salfer said.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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