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Golden Eagles fall short in upset bid of Sioux Falls Washington

Aberdeen Central’s Sam Rohlfs, left, fouls Sioux Falls Washington’s Mikele Kambalo, right, during the closing seconds of a game earlier this season at the Golden Eagles Arena. Rohlfs had 20 points to lead Central in a setback to Washington on Thursday in the State AA tourney. Photo by John Davis taken 2/27/2021

RAPID CITY – Another close call, another near miss.

Aberdeen Central had another chance to take down the top team in Class AA, but for the second time in less than three weeks, came up short on Thursday. The Golden Eagles fell to Sioux Falls Washington 56-53 in the opening round of the Class AA Boys’ State Basketball Tournament.

“Our kids played incredibly hard the whole game. That’s a really good team we played today. We had a couple of chances. We had a couple of tough breaks at the end that didn’t go our way,” said Central coach Brent Norberg. “Our kids kept fighting and playing. I asked them to play harder than they thought they could and they did that today, and it just wasn’t quite enough.”

Unlike their first meeting, Central got off to a much better start against the Warriors and led at halftime. However, things fell apart in the third quarter when Washington opened up a double-digit advantage.

“The third quarter killed us. They outscored us 21-10 in the third,” Norberg said. “They got some offevensive rebounds. We missed some bunnies. They made some threes. (Joe) Uttecht made 4-for-4 from three, so you’ve got to give that kid a lot of credit.”

Central trailed by 10 late in the fourth quarter before mounting a comeback and eventually tied the game on a conventional three-point play from Sam Rohlfs with 53 seconds left.

However, Washington got a basket from Eli Williams and later added a free throw from Tahj Two Bulls to secure the win. Central missed a half-court shot at the buzzer to tie the contest.

“With these guys you never feel like you’re out of it. They have such heart. They’re going to keep playing,” Norberg said of his players. “We just needed one more play.”

Rohlfs finished with a game-high 20 points to lead the Eagles. Alec Voegele contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Norberg said he was not surprised that his squad once again had the top-seeded Warriors on the ropes.

“I expected to be in the game. We played them tough the first time. We’re just frustrated that we couldn’t get it done this year,” he said. “These kids don’t quit. We coach them to the end and they respond to the end.”

Central, 11-11 on the season, faces Harrisburg at 1 p.m. (CDT) in consolation round action.

“I think our kids are excited to play again,” Norberg said. “That’s the nice thing about this group, they like playing.”

ABERDEEN CENTRAL (11-11): Harrison Reede 1 2-2 5, Alec Voegele 7 3-4 17, Noah Behrends 1 0-1 2, Sam Rohlfs 6 5-5 20, Spencer Barr 1 1-2 4, Aj Hase 1 0-0 3, Brady Rohrbach 1 0-0 2. Totals 18-53 11-14 53

SIOUX FALLS WASHINGTON (17-2): Mikele Kambalo 2 1-3 6, Joe Uttecht 5 0-0 14, Akok Agure 2 1-2 5, Eli Williams 2 0-0 4, Tahj Two Bulls 4 1-2 10, Angok Akot 6 0-1 12, Kael Miedema 2 1-1 5. Totals 23-57 4-9 56.

Aberdeen Central 14 24 35 53

Sioux Falls Washington 11 23 44 56

3-point field goals – Reede, Rohlfs 3, Barr, Hase; Kambalo, Uttecht 4, Two Bulls. Fouled out – Kambalo. Total fouls – Aberdeen Central 13; Sioux Falls Washington 18. Rebounds – Aberdeen Central 31 (Voegele 13); Sioux Falls Washington 38 (Kambalo 12). Turnovers- Aberdeen Central 13; Sioux Falls Washington 16. Assists – Aberdeen Central 5 (Rohlfs 3); Sioux Falls Washington 10 (Kambalo 8).

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