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Aberdeen Christian length, depth on display in win over Thunder

Aberdeen Christian’s Ellis Russell, left, lays up a shot past North Central’s Raynor Sprague (11) and Dawson Walz (32) during Tuesday night’s game at the Aberdeen Civic Arena. In the background at far right for the Knights is Joey Johnson. Photo by John Davis taken 1/31/2023

Whether it was using their superior size or hustling to win the battle for loose balls, the Aberdeen Christian Knights took advantage of their second chances Tuesday night.

The top-rated Class B squad produced 17 second-chance points on the way to a 73-30 Lake Region Conference boys’ basketball win over North Central at the Aberdeen Civic Arena.

“It’s something we pride ourselves on all year is winning those second-chance points and those second-chance efforts,” said Christian coach Matt Rohrbach. “The 50-50 balls are huge because that can be the deciding factor. You get two or three more shots, maybe you get one or two of them to fall. We definitely want to make sure that we keep that up. That’s something that is a heart thing.”

The Thunder definitely couldn’t do much about Christian’s height advantage at nearly every position. Those 50-50 balls were also crucial.

“One time on the sideline I was yelling, the ball was just bouncing, we have to get them,” said North Central coach Logen Secker. “I was screaming, ‘We have to get them!’ It has to be 70-30 balls for us, because they value the ball very well.”

Christian scored seven second-chance points in the opening quarter when it built a 16-8 lead. Ethan Russell had six points in the period. The senior added six more points in the second quarter as Christian’s lead reach 17 points by halftime.

The Knights turned to their bench in the second half and the reserves responded with 25 points, led by Ellis Russell who finished with eight points.

The sophomore really didn’t care about his point total.

“I’d rather get the stop and the assist,” he said.

Ellis Russell’s contributions don’t always show up in a scorebook, according to Rohrbach.

“He never misses rotations,” Rohrbach said. “He’s always in the right spot and his energy is always there.”

A total of 10 different players scored for Christian in the victory. That depth has played a key role in the team’s 13-0 start to the season.

“(Coach Rohrbach) kind of said from the start of the year we’ve got 9-10 guys that can play with anyone across the state,” Ellis Russell said, “so it gives you confidence that you know even coming off the bench you can play with these guys.”

Ethan Russell led Christian with 18 points, Malek Wieker added 14, Andrew Brennan and Ellis Russell followed with eight apiece, and Jackson Isakson, Abe Holscher and Joey Johnson each finished with six.

North Central’s Bastien Delalande, left, dribbles the ball away from the reach of Aberdeen Christian’s Jackson Isakson, center, during Tuesday night’s game at the Aberdeen Civic Arena. Photo by John Davis taken 1/31/2023

North Central received 10 points from Dawson Walz and nine from Cole Bukaske.

Secker talked about his team’s effort against the powerhouse Knights.

“When you go against the number one team in state, you can put your tail between your legs or you can come out with some effort,” Secker said. “I think it showed tonight, our kids are kind of up and down on the season, we’re 1-13 now, but with a little bit of belief and a little discipline you can make something of your team. I hope the guys saw that tonight against Aberdeen Christian.”

Christian faces a pair of tough foes to round out the week. The Knights play at 10-win Northwestern on Thursday before hosting Class A Dell Rapids, a team that was rated earlier this season, on Saturday afternoon.

“We’re late January here, early February. This is when teams need to start playing their best basketball,” Rohrbach said. “That White River game was great and Herreid-Selby and Warner, but we still feel like we haven’t peaked, yet, and so we want to make sure that we’re continuing to get better at the things we need to, defensive rotations, finishing possessions, getting the best shot we can. I think that if we continue to follow the little things and we stay together, we’ll get the results that we want.”

NORTH CENTRAL (1-12): Cole Bukaske 4 1-6 9, Bastien Delalande 1 0-0 2, Raynor Sprague 1 2-4 4, Cooper Oxner 1 0-0 3, Dawson Walz 5 0-0 10, Spencer Buechler 1 0-0 2. Totals 13-38 3-10 30.

ABERDEEN CHRISTIAN (13-0): Andrew Brennan 3 1-1 8, Jackson Isakson 2 1-1 6, Ethan Russell 8 0-1 18, Malek Wieker 6 1-1 14, Kaden Clark 1 0-0 2, Abe Holscher 2 0-0 6, Becker Bosma 1 0-0 3, Ellis Russell 3 2-4 8, Joey Johnson 2 2-2 6, Brenden Stapp 1 0-2 2. Totals 29-57 7-12 73.

North Central 8 16 26 30

Aberdeen Christian 16 33 56 73

3-point field goals – Oxner; Brennan, Isakson, Ethan Russell 2, Wieker, Holscher 2, Bosma. Total fouls – North Central 12; Aberdeen Christian 12. Rebounds – North Central 15 (Sprague 5); Aberdeen Christian 39 (Wieker 7, Ethan Russell 6, Johnson 5, Ellis Russell 5). Turnovers – North Central 13; Aberdeen Christian 9. Assists – Aberdeen Christian 17 (Wieker 5). Steals – Aberdeen Christian 6 (Holscher 3).

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