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Eagles respond in victory over Watertown

Aberdeen Central’s AJ Hase, right, moves to the basket between Watertown’s Kohen Kranz (14), Cole Holden, left and Devon Lewis, far right, during Thursday afternoon’s game at the Golden Eagles Arena. Photo by John Davis taken 12/30/2021

Aberdeen Central just wanted to respond.

After heading into the Christmas holiday break on the heels of a loss to Yankton, the Golden Eagle boys’ basketball program wanted — or perhaps needed — to open the second half of the season well.

And they did, clamping down defensively in the second half to claim a 56-41 Eastern South Dakota Conference victory over Watertown Thursday afternoon at Golden Eagles Arena. Central allowed just 15 points in the second half, and just five in the fourth quarter alone. All five of those points came with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

“We wanted to respond and we wanted to play better defensively and keep the ball out of the lane,” said Central coach Brent Norberg. “I think we did a good job of that today. … We were really bad defensively against Yankton. We didn’t get to shooters and they shot it really well. We struggled a little bit with that today, but overall I thought we did a pretty good job.”

Central opened the game with an 11-0 and a 14-3 lead, but some of those early defensive miscues reared their proverbial heads in the second quarter. Watertown’s Devon Lewis, who had eight points in the first quarter, showed off his shooting range in the second stanza. Lewis hit a pair of long 3-pointers to draw the Arrows even at 18-all midway through that second quarter.

But the Golden Eagles responded, again, pulling back in front on their next possession. Central never trailed after that and the Arrows never mounted another serious threat. The Golden Eagles led by three at the break, then put the clamps on out of the half.

“(Watertown’s) best player (Drew Norberg) got hurt,” Brent Norberg said. “That was part of it. And we missed some shots that we normally make, which would have given us a lead a little earlier, but I thought our guys hung in there and didn’t hang their heads and pout. We just slowly and steadily pulled away by just defending and rebounding.”

Lewis, who had 14 points at the break, was held scoreless in the second half, finishing with 14 points, three rebounds and three steals. Reese Stark had 13 points and eight boards for the Arrows.

Central, meanwhile, got 14 points from Sam Rohlfs and 13 from AJ Hase, who was 3-for-5 shooting from long range.

“Sam will shoot it better than he shot today,” Norberg said. “He shot it 18 times, and normally when he shoots 18 times, he has a giant number.”

Hase, a junior, had some early 3-pointers that gave the Golden Eagles a boost. He also finished with three assists and a pair of rebounds despite battling a bit of foul trouble in the second and third quarters.

“It feels good,” Hase said of the Golden Eagles’ victory. “It was tough coming off that loss, and I think a lot of us were more prepared for this game because of that. It feels really good.”

Aberdeen Central’s Brady Rohrbach, left, tries to drive around Watertown’s Mack Johnson, right, during Thursday afternoon’s game at the Golden Eagles Arena. Photo by John Davis taken 12/30/2021

Brady Rohrbach finished with seven points and nine rebounds in his first start of the season.

“I thought AJ and Brady Rohrbach played their best games of the year for us,” Norberg said. “I thought they were focused and into what we were doing defensively. Four offensive rebounds for Brady and nine total — he gets thrown into the starting lineup … and did a great job. Played a great game.”

Central, now 5-1 on the year, will host Sioux Falls Washington Tuesday. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Golden Eagles Arena.

“They’re good,” Norberg said. “Athletic. Their best player has been out, so if they get him back, they’re really, really good. And if they don’t get him back, they’re still really good. So it’ll be a tough one, but we’re excited for the challenge.”

WATERTOWN: Reese Stark 6 1-2 13, Devon Lewis 5 4-11 14, Cole Holden 1 0-2 2, Dalton Baumberger 1 0-0 3, Jake Olson 2 0-0 6, Evan Hamre 1 0-0 3. Totals 16-46 1-4 41.

ABERDEEN CENTRAL: Alec Voegele 5 0-1 10, Sam Rohlfs 7 0-0 14, Spencer Barr 2 2-2 8, AJ Hase 5 0-0 13, Brady Rohrbach 3 1-1 7, Jackson Dorsett 0 2-2 2, Jameson Palmer 1 0-0 2. Totals 23-52 5-6 56.

Watertown 10 26 36 41

Aberdeen Central 18 29 42 56

3-pt FG: Watertown 8-24 (Lewis 4, Baumberger, Olson 2, Hamre); AC 5-17 (Barr 2, Hase 3). Fouls: Watertown 8; AC 8. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: Watertown 30 (Stark 8, Holden 6); AC 32 (Rohrbach 9, Voegele 6, Rohlfs 5). Assists: Watertown 6 (Stark 2); AC 10 (Rohlfs 3, Hase 3). Turnovers: Watertown 16; AC 8. Blocks: Watertown 1 (Drew Norberg); AC 3 (Rohrbach 2, Voegele). Steals: Watertown 4 (Lewis 3); AC 6 (Rohlfs 4).

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