HURON – Aberdeen Christian weathered the storm before the Knights stormed their way into the State B Boys’ Basketball Tournament field Tuesday night. Christian rallied from a 13-point deficit and defeated Platte-Geddes 55-43 in SoDak 16 action at the Huron Arena.
The Knights qualified for last year’s state tourney but never got the chance to play in it because of COVID.
“It takes so much just to get back in this position and then to battle and get there,” said Christian Coach David Rohrbach. “I’m happy for all guys. I know first-hand how much work they put in. Super excited for the guys.”
The Knights got off to a rocky start and trailed 18-5 in the second quarter as Platte-Geddes consistently found shots at the rim.
“We really weren’t all that sharp on defense,” Rohrbach said. “We were letting cutters get to where they wanted. Their bigs were kind of posting up with little resistance.”
The momentum started to shift late in the half, however. Four different Christian players scored in a two-minute stretch as the Knights trimmed the deficit to 23-20 at halftime.
“I thought we really took a big punch and then weathered it,” Rohrbach said. “For where we were, we were in a great position going into halftime.”
Christian then took control in the second half. The Knights nailed all four of their three-point field goals in the quarter, two each by Malek Wieker and Jackson Isakson, and the game began to change.
“Our shots started falling,” said Christian senior center Brent Ekanger. “Malek really got us into the flow of offense. Jackson, I don’t know if he missed tonight.”
Those shots on one end of the floor led to a spirited effort on the other end and Christian never trailed after that.
“We really want to feed off our defense. It kind of keeps you in games too when shots aren’t going,” Rohrbach said. “But man, the energy picked up once we hit a couple of shots, which was so needed. I did think our defensive focus and attention definitely was better.”
Rohrbach said he could tell on his players faces that they were not going to be denied.
“The guys just rallied and took it from there,” he said. “You could just see it in their eyes, that every possession they were going to battle.”
Ekanger said the team was motivated to get to the state tournament.
“We wanted it a lot,” Ekanger said. “We put out the effort.”
Wieker finished with 21 points and Isakson followed with 19. Ekanger contributed 10 points (including a pair of slam dunks), nine rebounds and four steals.
“To be honest, I can’t put it into words, really,” said Ekanger following the win. “This is the happiest moment of my life to this point. I’m not even kidding.”
Christian, 18-4 on the season, will face Canistota at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 18 in the opening round of the state tournament at Wachs Arena.
“It’s super awesome. We’ve been dreaming of this our whole lives,” Rohrbach said. “To be able to go there right in our backyard and play is just a dream come true.”
ABERDEEN CHRISTIAN (18-4): Jackson Isakson 5 5-6 19, Ethan Russell 1 1-1 3, Malek Wieker 7 3-5 21, Brent Ekanger 4 2-4 10, Jett Becker 0 2-2 2. Totals 17-39 13-18 55.
PLATTE-GEDDES (16-6): Jackson Neuman 2 0-0 4, Hayes Rabenberg 0 1-2 1, Brody Boltjes 1 0-0 3, Caden Foxley 5 2-5 12, Kelby VanDerWerff 3 0-1 7, Will Miller 4 0-0 10, Nate Whalen 3 0-0 6. Totals 18-53 3-8 43.
Aberdeen Christian 5 20 36 55
Platte-Geddes 14 23 32 43
3-point field goals – Isakson 4, Wieker 4; Boltjes, VanDerWerff, Miller 2. Fouled out – Becker; Rabenberg. Total fouls – Aberdeen Christian 14; Platte-Geddes 15. Rebounds – Aberdeen Christian 28 (Ekanger 9); Platte-Geddes 32 (VanDerWerff 9). Turnovers – Aberdeen Christian 11; Platte-Geddes 7. Steals – Aberdeen Christian 7 (Ekanger 4); Platte-Geddes 5 (Miller 3).
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