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Knights go inside for season-opening win over JVC

Aberdeen Christian's Malek Wieker looks to pass the ball against the defensive pressure of Dax Frandsen of James Valley Christian during a game at the Aberdeen Civic Arena Saturday night. Courtesy photo

Known for its past ability to shoot from the perimeter, Aberdeen Christian decided instead to go inside to start the season Saturday night.

The third-rated Knights got the ball into the paint to help fuel a 74-45 non-conference boys’ basketball victory over James Valley Christian at the Aberdeen Civic Arena.

The strategy worked on multiple fronts. For starters, it led to high-percentage shots. Second, it got the Vikings into serious foul trouble, and third, it led to 13 free-throw attempts that produced 11 points to help the Knights open a double-digit lead. That in turn led to something else in the second half.

“We got them in foul trouble which was very exciting, because they couldn’t play the defense they wanted to,” said new Christian coach Matt Rohrbach who won his first career game, “and we benefitted from that in the second half because we were able to get to the rim, because they were in foul trouble.”

Ethan Russell took advantage of his inside touches to produce 11 first-half points, nine coming on foul shots.

Joey Johnson came off the bench to score seven first-half points as the hosts opened a 13-point halftime advantage.

The Knights still made four three-pointers, including a pair by Malek Wieker to close out the second and third quarters.

“The good three pointers are the ones that come inside out,” Wieker said. “When you can get your inside game going, man, the threes are going to go in.”

The left-handed sharp-shooter made his last eight shots from the field on the way to a game-high 23 points, many coming on drives to the basket in the second half.

“I made a big emphasis on getting in the weight room and getting bigger,” Wieker said of his off season. “That’s how you’re going to get to the rim. That’s how you’re going to get to the free-throw line.”

Wieker also handed out six assists, often spotting teammates for open looks.

“He was awesome out there. He took control of the offense,” Rohrbach said. “He was a floor general out there at times and a scoring point guard at times. He was all over the place.”

Wieker said he doesn’t care about statistics, he just wants to win a state title, after finishing runner-up two years ago and seventh last season.

“It doesn’t matter about points. All I care about is the win column,” Wieker said. “If we can put wins on the board, that’s all I care about. I want to get back to the state championship and win that thing this year.”

While Wieker is the one in the spotlight, Rohrbach praised the people in practice who push the senior point guard to get better each day.

“I really want to give a shout out to the bench and how well they’ve done in practice. Malek is obviously a great player and you saw the growth this year, but he gets there because we’re pushing him in practice, guys like Abe Holscher, guys like Ellis Russell,” Rohrbach said. “They’re giving him really good looks in practice and they’re making him work for it, and he comes into the game tonight prepared because of it.”

Ethan Russell finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jackson Isakson contributed 11 points and Johnson nine.

Jackson Isakson of Aberdeen Christian, left, and Isaac Korell, of James Valley Christian battle for position on a rebound during a game at the Aberdeen Civic Arena Saturday night. Courtesy photo

Landon Wallman topped JVC with 14 points, and Landon Wager and Isaac Korell each added 10.

Christian has a busy week ahead with a game at Warner on Tuesday, hosting Leola-Frederick on Thursday and taking on Dell Rapids at Aberdeen Roncalli on Saturday.

While Rohrbach was pleased with his team’s season opener, he knows there are things to work on. The Vikings caused problems with 13 offensive rebounds, despite the setback.

“They had a relentless pursuit last year and they had one again tonight,” Rohrbach said. “That’s something we’re going to have to clean up if we’re going to beat a team like Warner, Leola and then Dell Rapids on Saturday.”

JAMES VALLEY CHRISTIAN (0-1): Brennen Hood 3 0-0 7, Landon Wager 4 0-0 10, Landon Wallman 6 0-0 14, Ethan Bartholow 2 0-2 4, Isaac Korell 4 0-0 10. Totals 19-60 0-2 45.

ABERDEEN CHRISTIAN (1-0): Andrew Brennan 1 1-2 4, Jackson Isakson 5 0-0 11, Ethan Russell 4 9-11 17, Malek Wieker 10 1-3 23, Kaden Clark 1 0-0 2, Abe Holscher 1 0-0 2, Josh Schaunaman 1 0-0 2, Ellis Russell 2 0-0 4, Joey Johnson 4 1-1 9. Totals 29-51 12-17 74.

James Valley Christian 9 21 34 45

Aberdeen Christian 15 34 52 74

3-point field goals – Hood, Wager 2, Wallman 2, Korell 2; Brennan, Isakson, Wieker 2. Total fouls – James Valley Christian 16; Aberdeen Christian 12. Rebounds – James Valley Christian 25 (Bartholow 6); Aberdeen Christian 33 (Russell 12). Turnovers – James Valley Christian 10; Aberdeen Christian 10. Assists – Aberdeen Christian 11 (Wieker 6). Steals – Aberdeen Christian 6.

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