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Girls Basketball

Central dominates Spearfish to earn AA tourney berth

Aberdeen Central’s Brooklyn Kusler, center, tries to move to the basket between Spearfish’s Hannah Schoon, left, Anna Engen, right and Kylie Stalder, far right, during the first half of Friday night’s game at the Golden Eagles Arena. Behind Kusler for Central is Jordan Hermansen. Photo by John Davis taken 3/5/2021

Aberdeen Central got the ball inside and left Spearfish on the outside looking in at Golden Eagles Friday night. Brooklyn Kusler returned to her spot in the lane and helped power the Golden Eagles to a 70-35 girls’ basketball SoDak 16 win, securing an entry into next week’s Class AA state tournament.

“We got off to a great start. We have to give the kids a lot of credit because we really passed the ball well tonight,” said Central coach Dawn Seiler.

Kusler scored 26 of her 30 points in the opening half when the Eagles took control.

“We created great looks. ‘Kus’ was the beneficiary of a lot of those great looks. The ball was moving and they were having a difficult time catching up to it,” Seiler said. “We got some easy offense off our fast break and we were very good passing the ball. We shot 77 percent that first half, but you should shoot 77 percent the first half with the looks we were getting.”

The contest marked the final home game for Kusler and three other seniors. Kusler said it was important to set the tone early to take away any thoughts Spearfish had of pulling off an upset.

“It was emotional knowing that it was our last time playing here,” Kusler said, “but I think we knew we just had to come out with a good start and take care of business and just get the job done.”

Seiler noted that since Kusler suffered a hand injury late in the season, she has been relegated to play on the perimeter in order to save her for the stretch run.

“We were playing Kusler outside a lot. We were just trying to save her a little bit,” Seiler said. “We didn’t want wear and tear on that hand. We didn’t want her banged up. We know going into the tournament, playing without her wasn’t a very good option for us.”

Seiler said the intent all along was for Kusler to return to the lane and she made the most of that opportunity against the Spartans.

“You can see she’s a force in there,” Seiler said. “We have to have her play inside for the tournament.”

Kusler made all 11 of her field-goal attempts in the contest. Melanie Jacobs followed with 13 points and Abby Kopecky added 10.

The Golden Eagles now head to the state tourney in Sioux Falls.

“I think our defense is what sets us apart from other teams,” Kusler said of her team’s chances next week. “If we have a strong defensive game we can beat anyone.”

Central, 18-3, faces Brandon Valley in the first round at 5 p.m. Seiler expects a wide open tournament.

“The AA girls’ basketball is exceptional this year. You expect the state tournament to be execptional as well. I just think it’s a wide open field,” Seiler said. “Every team that’s going to make the state tournament had a stretch of exceptional basketball and then also had a little lull in their season. For everybody right now it’s about putting three strong games together. It’s going to be who’s at their peak right now. It’s an exciting tournament based on that field.”

SPEARFISH: Kylie Stalder 1 0-0 2, Anna Engen 5 0-0 10, Hannah Schoon 0 1-2 1, Stella Marcus 4 1-1 11, Brylee Grubb 1 0-2 2, Sydney Gusso 1 0-0 2, Lily McCarty 2 0-0 5, Maria Bouman 1 0-0 2, Lexi Sheeler 0 0-2 0. Totals 15-36 2-7 35.

ABERDEEN CENTRAL: Jordan Hermansen 0 3-6 3, Melanie Jacobs 5 0-0 13, Taryn Hettich 2 0-0 4, Abby Kopecky 4 0-0 11, Brooklyn Kusler 11 8-12 30, Anna Malchow 0 1-2 1, Karly Wellman 0 2-2 2, Megan Mork 0 2-2 2, Grace Kuch 1 0-0 2, Kianna Mounga 0 2-2 2. Totals 23-36 18-26 70.

Spearfish 13 19 27 35

Aberdeen Central 20 47 55 70

3-point field goals – Marcus 2, McCarty; Jacobs 3, Kopecky 3. Total fouls – Spearfish 15; Aberdeen Central 8. Rebounds – Spearfish 16; Aberdeen Central 25. Turnovers – Spearfish 18; Aberdeen Central 11. Assists – Spearfish 7; Aberdeen Central 18 (Jacobs 6).

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