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Section 3A boys basketball: R-T-R quickness blocks Southwest Christian

MARSHALL -- Westin Kirk, a 6-1 senior forward and the main inside presence on a Russell-Tyler-Ruthton boys basketball team lacking in height, spent all but 3:33 of the second half on the bench during Saturday's Section 3A South championship again...

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Southwest Christian Eagles head coach Jamie Pap gives his team instructions during a second-half time out against Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in section boys basketball play Saturday. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

 

MARSHALL -- Westin Kirk, a 6-1 senior forward and the main inside presence on a Russell-Tyler-Ruthton boys basketball team lacking in height, spent all but 3:33 of the second half on the bench during Saturday’s Section 3A South championship against Southwest Christian.

With 40 seconds to go in the first half at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, he drew his third personal foul.

The minutes ticked off in the second half and, still, Kirk had yet to make an appearance -- despite the fact that he scored 13 first half points before getting into foul trouble.

Why so long on the bench?

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“We didn’t have to come back to him,” said R-T-R head coach Ted Kern. “It was nice to have him there at the end. Jonah Johnson (a 6-1 senior guard) did a good job picking up the slack.”

The Knights didn’t need Kirk because his teammates -- led by sophomore brothers Carter and Cooper Hansen -- used their exceptional quickness and anticipation to break up the Eagles’ efforts to mount a comeback. R-T-R, which led 36-31 at halftime, continued to lead Southwest by six to nine points through most of the second half. The lead became 61-48 with 6:48 to go, and the Eagles just couldn’t make a dent.

Why argue with success?

“It was pretty hard for me (to sit), but it was a great opportunity for my teammates, and they really played well,” Kirk said.

The Knights, top-seeded in the south half of the section, ran their record to 29-1 with a 76-63 win over Southwest Christian, the tournament’s No. 3 seed. R-T-R will play for the Section 3A title and a state tournament berth Thursday at 5 p.m. at SMSU.

Russell-Tyler-Ruthton has built its remarkable record through senior leadership and intense, physical play. The Knights are not tall, but they are very quick, and they harass opponents all over the floor. Their anticipation and leaping ability helps them get rebounds (they got 16 offensive boards against SWC), and it also helps them get steals. They got more than their share of steals against a Southwest Christian team that also possesses a lot of quickness.

“We knew that, coming in, their pressure was going to be very hard,” said Southwest Christian head coach Jamie Pap, whose Eagles only two days earlier achieved an impressive and emotional victory over second-seeded Westbrook-Walnut Grove.

The night before the R-T-R game, Southwest’s girls played for a Section 3A crown against Minneota at the same SMSU gymnasium.

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“We had a very emotional win with Westbrook. The girls played last night, and then we had to turn around and play today. We spent a lot of energy Thursday night, so it was a little hard to regroup from that. But I’ve got to say, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton is a very good team.”

Kirk’s inside scoring helped R-T-R stay in front of the Eagles in the first half, and he even stepped out for a 3-pointer. With his three fouls, he cheered his teammates on from the bench through the majority of the second half.

As the Knights fought for rebounds, pressed the ball offensively down the lane and elevated their pressure defensively, the Eagles made mini-runs against their deficit but could not close in seriously.

Garrett Kern finished with 19 points for R-T-R. Kirk had 16, Carter Hansen 15 and Cooper Hansen 14. Johnson scored 12.

Sophomore guard Jacob Van Dam, whose 3-point shooting lifted Southwest Christian against Westbrook-Walnut Grove, had another stellar long-range shooting day, with 19 points -- including five 3-point makes.

The Eagles’ inside threat, AJ Vanderby, scored 14 points. Point guard Logan Walhof, who did well against the R-T-R pressure, scored 13 points.

Vanderby led Southwest with eight rebounds. Trey Huisken dished out four assists and Avery Pater had three steals.

R-T-R Coach Kern said he was impressed with Southwest Christian’s victory over Westbrook-Walnut Grove, and it was important for his players to keep the Eagles from hitting too many 3s.

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“We spend a lot of time on defense. These kids have been a very big part of our varsity for three years,” he said. “(Southwest) got some shooters free on the back side occasionally, but I think we did a good job of at least making them make a couple of passes.”

It was a hard way for the Eagles to end their season. They finished the year 19-8, unable to avenge a 79-64 regular season setback against the Knights during the regular season.

“It’s a tough locker room after the season’s done,” Pap said.

Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 36 76

Southwest Christian 31 63

RUSSELL-TYLER-RUTHTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- J.Johnson 1-2-5-12, Carter Hansen 0-5-5-15, Kirk 1-6-1-16, Kern 1-8-0-19, Cooper Hansen 0-6-2-14. Totals 3-17-13-76.

SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Huisken 0-0-2-2, Walhof 1-3-4-13, Pater 0-4-2-10, Vanderby 0-5-4-14, Van Dam 5-2-0-19, Dilly 0-1-0-2, Kooima 1-0-0-3. Totals 7-15-12-63.

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Southwest Christian's AJ Vanderby (53) has the ball stripped by R-T-R guard Cooper Hansen (32) in Marshall Saturday afternoon. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

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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