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Section 3A girls basketball: Southwest blisters RRC

LES KNUTSON Daily Globe MARSHALL -- In dominating fashion, the fast-moving and accurate shooting Eagles of Southwest Minnesota Christian High School, based in Edgerton, repeated as the Section 3A South girls basketball champions Friday evening wi...

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Southwest Christian's Brooklyn DeKam (21) looks for room to maneuver Friday night while being guarded by Red Rock Central's Rachel Kedl in the Section 3A South girls basketball championship game. (Tim Middagh / Daily Globe)
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LES KNUTSON

Daily Globe

MARSHALL - In dominating fashion, the fast-moving and accurate shooting Eagles of Southwest Minnesota Christian High School, based in Edgerton, repeated as the Section 3A South girls basketball champions Friday evening with an impressive 97-67 victory over top-seeded Red Rock Central at Southwest Minnesota State University.

“I’m just super happy,” beamed an elated Eagles’ head coach Denise Nerem after members of her well-balanced squad received their gold medals. “I was so pleased with our super defensive effort and I like how well we ran the floor and passed the ball when we were on offense, which really allowed us nice shot selection.”

The second-seeded Eagles, now 24-3, certainly shot the ball well - from all angles and distances. SW Christian sank 16 of 18 free throws (89 percent), made 27 of 45 two-point field goals (60 percent) and connected on 9 of 22 three-pointers (41 percent).

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Overall, the Eagles were a red-hot 63 percent from the field, netting 36 of the 57 shots they attempted. Counting the free throws, SWC was a remarkable 52 of 75 (69 percent) on all shots for the game.

Early in the aggressively-played game neither team could hardly get a shot off, much less make one.

Turnovers, loose balls, blocked shots and missed shots highlighted the game’s first three minutes as there were numerous steals and jump-ball situations and the teams exchanged possessions without moving the scoreboard.

Finally, two minutes and 48 seconds into the contest, SWC sophomore forward Hannah Nerem scored inside and 25 seconds later the Eagles took a 4-0 lead when senior forward Chantel Groen converted on a fleet-footed coast-to-coast drive down the left sideline. After a mid-range basket by junior guard Emily Nerem, Groen snagged a defensive rebound and repeated her tactic on the right side, accelerating to the hoop and giving the Eagles an 8-0 lead.

“She’s a track kid and can sure run the floor,” Coach Nerem said about Groen, who scored 14 of her 21 points during the first half. “Our speed is definitely a positive thing for us.”

RRC, which entered the game on a 19-game winning streak, countered with a 12-2 run of its own and held a 12-10 edge with 11:05 showing on the first-half clock.

Providing a spark for the Falcons was senior guard Taylor Price, who was playing in just her third game of the season after suffering an ACL injury last summer. Price and sophomore point guard Haley Simonson each connected on 3-pointers for the Falcons during the surge and it appeared that the game was going to be a series of back-and-forth runs that many basketball fans expected.

An inside basket by RRC sophomore forward Vanessa Kedl gave RRC a 14-12 lead, which was quickly matched by another hoop by Hannah Nerem. That was the last time the score was tied.

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SWC’s Brooklyn DeKam capped an 8-0 Eagle run with her first basket of the game - a three-pointer from the left corner - at the 7:32 mark, as the pace of the contest continued to pick up.

RRC battled back as Kaitlyn Rindfleisch and Kedl scored inside, Price and Simonson each stroked threes and Ramsey Piotter hit a mid-range jumper, twice bringing the Falcons to within two (28-26 and 30-28).

The Eagles, however, finished the half on an 11-6 surge, capped by DeKam’s second trey, to take a 41-34 advantage into intermission.

DeKam stretches lead After a  three-pointer by RRC junior guard Meghan Shannon and an inside turnaround jumper by Vanessa Kedl brought the Falcons to within six, 45-39, early in the second half, DeKam connected on back-to-back three-pointers, putting the Eagles up by a dozen. During the next minute, she sank a pair of free throws, drilled another long-range shot and made another free throw, giving her 12 of SWC’s first 16 points of the second-half and helping her team open up a 57-43 lead.

Price and Piotter countered with three-pointers for the Falcons, slicing the gap to 10 (59-49) with 13:06 left, but Groen scored her 1,000th varsity career point with another patented drive and the margin was again 12.

Baskets by freshman guard Jazlyn Prins, Emily Nerem and Groen helped widen the spread to 70-51 and the Eagles stayed in control, claiming leads of 79-56, 85-58 and 93-62 before the final horn sounded.

Groen finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Prins (15 points, four rebounds, four steals, three assists), Emily Nerem (13 points, six assists, six rebounds, three steals) and Hannah Nerem (10 points) joined DeKam and Groen in double figures for SWC. Senior Leah Buys (eight points, five assists, three steals) played a strong second-half for the Eagles, who outrebounded the Falcons by a 34-25 margin and had 22 turnovers compared to 29 by RRC.

Simonson finished with 15 points to lead the Falcons (25-4), while Price (four three-pointers) and Rindfleisch scored 14 and 13 points, respectively.

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Southwest will play Laq qui Parle Valley, a 52-44 winner over Canby in the other Section 3A North final, for the section championship March 10 at 8 p.m. at SMSU.

RRC     34   57SWC    41   97

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In traffic, Southwest Chrisitan's Chantel Groen goes up for a basket Friday night in Section 3A girls basketball action in Marshall. Red Rock Central's Ramsey Piotter (13) defends. (Tim Middagh / Daily Globe)

Related Topics: GIRLS BASKETBALL
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