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Groton headed to State A following win over Titans

Groton's Tate Larson, center, tries to drive to the basket as Mount Vernon-Plankinton’s Mason Hetland, right, grabs the ball and Zach Baker, left, reaches in during their Class A SoDak 16 game Tuesday night in Redfield. Looking on at far left for the Titans is Blaine Bohr. Photo by John Davis taken 3/8/2022

REDFIELD – Groton went inside to build a lead, worked outside to maintain it, and earned its first trip to the State A tournament since 2001 Tuesday night.

The Tigers scored a 63-48 SoDak 16 boys’ basketball win over Mount Vernon-Plankinton in front of a large and loud crowd in Redfield.

The victory validated hours and hours of work spent in the attempt to reach the state tourney.

“All the work, all the early mornings, all the late nights, come to pay off because of this right here,” said Groton center Tate Larson. “It’s 100 percent worth it.”

Despite having a size disadvantage, the Tigers were able to attack the rim and build a five-point lead in the opening half. Jacob Zak was the catalyst, scoring 10 first-half points, most of them by blowing past his defender for layups.

It was then Larson’s turn in the third quarter. After making a three-pointer in the first half, he decided to move his game inside where he scored seven third-quarter points as Groton open up a double-digit lead.

“I hit a three-pointer right away and then I just started shooting (outside),” Larson said. “And I was like, nah, I can’t be doing that anymore. I kept attacking the basket then.”

Larson finished with 17 points to lead the Tigers in scoring.

“I told him (Monday) when we practiced, double-double tomorrow night, we need a double-double out of you,” said Groton coach Brian Dolan. “So you need to be powerful down there, you need to be who you are. He took it to heart and really came out with an attitude today and really performed for us.”

Once the Tigers had the lead, they extended it by connecting from the perimeter with four three-pointers in the second half.

A big factor in the contest was Groton’s defense. The Tigers were able to prevent numerous high-low post feeds by the Titans.

Mount Vernon-Plankinton’s Zach Baker (10) tries to escape the defensive pressure of Groton’s Kaden Kurtz (20) and Jayden Zak (3) during their Class A SoDak 16 game Tuesday night in Redfield. In on the play are the Titans’ Reed Rus (2) and the Tigers’ Jacob Zak, far left. Photo by John Davis taken 3/8/2022

“The number one key was ball pressure. They look at what they’re going to do. They’re a very good passing team. They throw a lot of high-lows,” Dolan said. “They’re pocket passers. We thought if we could get some pressure on them, make them get outside the pocket, that they might struggled a little bit completing their passes. That’s kind of what happened.”

Reed Rus had 17 points to lead MVP before fouling out. Jordan Stoltz added 10.

Zak added 14 points to the Groton total, while Lane Tietz contributed 12.

The Tigers, 20-3 on the season, will face Flandreau at 1:45 p.m. (MDT) in the opening round of the State A tournament in Rapid City on Thursday, March 17.

It’s been more than 20 years since the last time Groton has been in the Big Show, and the Tigers plan on making some noise when they get to Rapid City.

“We’re not going there just to be happy,” Dolan said.

There was plenty of happiness to go around following Tuesday night’s SoDak 16 victory in a playoff atmosphere.

“This is amazing. The atmosphere and everything around here,” Zak said. “This was by far the best experience I’ve had my entire life.”

MOUNT VERNON-PLANKINTON (16-7): Reed Rus 7 3-4 17, Zach Baker 2 3-4 8, Mason Hetland 3 0-0 6, Jordan Stoltz 5 0-0 10, Blaine Bohr 2 1-3 5, Ryan Chapman 1 0-0 2. Totals 20-39 7-11 48.

GROTON (20-3): Lane Tietz 3 1-1 12, Jayden Zak 1 1-2 4, Kaden Kurtz 2 3-3 7, Jacob Zak 7 0-0 14, Tate Larson 6 4-5 17, Cole Simon 0 2-2 2, Wyatt Hearnen 3 0-0 7. Totals 23-44 11-13 63.

Mount Vernon-Plankinton 10 20 28 48

Groton 8 25 41 63

3-point field goals – Baker; Tietz 3, Jayden Zak, Larson, Hearnen. Fouled out – Rus; Kurtz. Total fouls – Mount Vernon-Plankinton 13; Groton 15. Rebounds – Mount Vernon-Plankinton 22 (Rus 8); Groton 13 (Jayden Zak 3, Larson 3, Kurtz 3). Turnovers – Mount Vernon-Plankinton 20; Groton 8. Assists – Groton 10 (Larson 3). Steals – Groton 13 (Larson 4).

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