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Third-quarter surge carries Christian past GPL

Aberdeen Christian’s Brent Ekanger, right, moves to the basket around Great Plains Lutheran’s Gavin Dornbusch, left, during Tuesday night’s Region 1B tournament game at the Aberdeen Civic Arena. Photo by John Davis taken 3/2/2021

It started out with a basket to stem momentum and turned into an offensive avalanche that put the game out of reach.

Aberdeen Christian, leading by just five points, exploded for 23 points in less than six minutes in the third period on the way to a 69-34 win over Great Plains Lutheran in Region 1B action at the Aberdeen Civic Arena Tuesday night.

Ethan Russell fueled the surge by scoring 11 points, including back-to-back-to-back three-point field goals.

“He’s a good shooter,” said Knights coach David Rohrbach. “After he hit a couple, the guys were just looking for him, because they knew the next one was going in. It’s definitely good to see him hit some shots.”

While the Knights caught fire from the perimeter, Rohrbach said a big key to the pivotal run was a pair of baskets from 6-foot-6 center Brent Ekanger.

“I think what really kind of got us going there was Brent established himself. I think he scored on two straight possessions right before we hit those threes,” Rohrbach said. “We just tell him you have to establish your dominance down low and then everything else will open.”

GPL had scored the first seven points of the second half to trail only 33-28. By the time the quarter finished, that five-point edge had ballooned to a 24-point advantage.

Christian got off to a sluggish start in the game, but got a spark off the bench from Kaden Clark. The sophomore scored six first-half points and made his presence felt on the offensive glass.

“Kaden did some real good stuff off the bench, especially against their zone,” Rohrbach said. “Kaden just reads the middle of that zone so well. He was big hitting his floater in there and then he’s just smart. He’s crafty. He reads stuff well off the boards.”

The Knights finished with 17 offensive rebounds in the contest.

Russell finished with a game-high 19 points. Jackson Isakson followed with 13, Ekanger contributed 10, Malek Wieker had nine and Clark added eight.

Andrew Heil’s 14 points topped the Panthers. Sam Hansen netted 9.

Christian, 16-4 on the season, plays Waverly-South Shore at 6 p.m. Friday at the Civic Arena with a trip to the SoDak 16 at stake.

Rohrbach knows his team will have to put four good quarters together.

“We just have to come more ready to go early on,” Rohrbach said. “We definitely need to put a more complete game together Friday, but (in the) playoffs you just want to be moving on.”

GREAT PLAINS LUTHERAN: Ethan Kjenstad 2 1-3 6, Andrew Heil 5 1-2 14, Conner Kannas 0 1-2 1, Nolan Hansen 1 0-1 2, Logan Lauseng 1 1-2 4, Sam Hansen 3 2-2 9. Totals 12 6-12 36.

ABERDEEN CHRISTIAN: Jackson Isakson 5 0-0 13, Ethan Russell 6 3-4 19, Malek Wieker 3 1-1 9, Brent Ekanger 5 0-0 10, Jett Becker 2 2-3 6, Andrew Brennan 2 0-0 4, Kaden Clark 4 0-1 8. Totals 27 6-9 69.

Great Plains Lutheran 14 21 32 36

Aberdeen Christian 14 33 56 69

3-point field goals – Kjenstad, Heil 3, Lauseng, Hansen; Isakson 3, Russell 4, Wieker 2. Total fouls – Great Plains Lutheran 11; Aberdeen Christian 17. Rebounds – Aberdeen Christian 45 (Becker 9). Turnovers – Aberdeen Christian 7. Assists – Aberdeen Christian 15 (Wieker 5).

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