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Section 3A boys basketball: R-T-R, SWC move on

WORTHINGTON -- Two state-ranked teams played in the semifinals of the Section 3A South boys basketball tournament Thursday night. Only one will play in the finals.

4059372+SWC vs WWG Semi 2 web.jpg
Westbrook-Walnut Grove center Parker Freeburg (55) has his shot blocked by Southwest Minnesota Christian guard Avery Pater (23). (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Two state-ranked teams played in the semifinals of the Section 3A South boys basketball tournament Thursday night. Only one will play in the finals.

Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, No. 3 in Minnesota Class A, survived a shaky start to thwart Murray County Central 59-40 in the first semifinal contest at the Worthington High School gym. In the late game, Southwest Christian upended No. 6 Westbrook-Walnut Grove 92-76, avenging an 82-80 loss to the Chargers in Westbrook on Jan. 30.

The Knights will take on the Eagles Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, in a 12:30 p.m. contest to earn the right to play the North champion for a state tournament berth.

R-T-R 59, MCC 40 Murray County Central’s disciplined zone defense kept R-T-R’s scoring down early. More than three and a half minutes elapsed before the Knights scored their first basket.

But the South’s top seed overcame its 5-0 deficit to lead 16-10 on senior forward Garrett Kern’s third 3-pointer of the first half. The Knights took a 37-22 lead into halftime.

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From there, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton steadily increased its lead. At one point, the margin ballooned to 52-28. Murray County Central, the tournament’s fourth seed which lost to R-T-R 55-33 during the regular season, stayed aggressive throughout the second half and attempted shots quickly -- often from long range -- to get back into the game. But the Knights were up to the challenge.

“Number one, we wanted to take care of the ball. Two, we wanted to get our posts involved. We kind of did that right away, but we were just missing there,” said MCC head coach Tim Bobeldyk. “We had too many turnovers. That’s what they do, they get turnovers. They got too many baskets.”

Both teams did some pressing in the first half. The Rebels tried to take advantage of their height inside, but they weren’t always able to finish against the athletic Knights.

MCC turned the ball over 17 times and, said Bobeldyk, gave R-T-R too many offensive rebounds.

Senior forward Westin Kirk led Russell-Tyler-Ruthton with 18 points. Kern finished with 12 and Carter Hansen had 10 points.

Nate Everson scored 12 points for Murray County Central.

The victory pushed R-T-R to 28-1 on the season.

“Especially on the defensive end, I thought we executed our game plan pretty well,” said head coach Ted Kern. “They play a tough zone. We struggled offensively when we played them a week and a half ago, offensively, also.”

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Pressure defense increased the efficiency of the Knights’ good athletes.

“We’re not a big team, so we need to go out and pressure,” Kern continued. “We play hard. We’re a pretty athletic team and a pretty veteran team. That’s the other thing about having a veteran team, they’re very focused. They haven’t looked past anybody all year.”

R-T-R 37 59

MCC 22 40

SWC 92, W-WG 76 In their Jan. 30 game against the Chargers, Southwest Christian let them go on a big offensive run in the first half that made the game, at that point, look like a blowout in the making. In the big rematch, the Eagles were bound and determined not to let that happen.

“We definitely had to get back on defense,” said 5-11 junior guard Trey Huisken, who hit five 3-point shots in the first half and finished with 19 points. “Team defense, rebounding, were huge. We had to get stops, then the offense took care of everything.”

The Eagles enjoyed a strong shooting night through the full two halves, outscoring the Chargers 51-36 in the second half. They converted 14 3-point shots in all, out of 30 attempts.

“I said before the game we had to hit at least 10 for the game,” said SWC head coach Jamie Pap.

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Like the first time these two outstanding Red Rock Conference teams met, Westbrook-Walnut Grove got off to a good start. But this time, the Eagles stayed close, and then took the lead halfway through the first half.

Huisken had all his 19 points in the first half as Southwest took a 41-40 advantage into intermission. Both teams were aggressive on offense throughout the second half, but the Eagles slowly pulled away. It was 70-62 on a Parker Kooima 3-pointer with a little more than seven and a half minutes to go. It was 80-69 with a little more than three minutes to go, and it was time for Southwest to exhibit some patience with the ball.

“This is one step more than last year. We gotta just keep trying, see how far we can go,” Huisken said.

Jacob Van Dam scored 17 points for Southwest Christian, with many of them coming in tense situations. The Eagles’ big 6-5 post, AJ Vanderby, finished with 14 points. Kooima had 14 and Avery Pater 10.

Vanderby also had 12 rebounds. Pater had six assists. Van Dam and Logan Walhof each had three steals.

Anthony Ross scored 20 points to lead W-WG. Tyson Elzenga added 17 points and Kyle Kuehl had 11.

After the game, Pap said he has a “ton” of respect for W-WG coach Derrick Jenniges and his outstanding Chargers team. He said his Eagles made an adjustment at halftime to attack more on offense, and for the entire game they were determined to have a good rebounding night.

And, of course, they wanted to keep W-WG from going on a big scoring run.

“That was a very big thing, too, about the game. Don’t let them get started,” Pap said.

W-WG finished its season with a 24-4 record. Southwest Christian is 19-7.

W-WG 40 76

Southwest 41 92

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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