PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Knights claim Camden Conference crown with win over Dawson-Boyd

Photo by Emily Daniels RTR’s Garrett Kern brings the ball upcourt during their game against Dawson-Boyd on Monday. The Knights defeated the Blackjacks 66-56.

TYLER – With the halftime score of 31-28 in favor of the Knights, it looked like the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton and Dawson-Boyd Camden Conference Championship game was going to go down the wire. The Knights were able to find the spark that they needed, though, in the second half to come out victorious in the conference title game over the Blackjacks with a final score of 66-56.

Coming off the win RTR coach Ted Kern saw a lot of teamwork from the boys on the court and a lot of that comes from the big senior leadership that has been brought to the team this whole season.

“We shared the ball much better in the second half, we got a little loose with things in the first half at times. We tried to force some passes that weren’t there that put ourselves in some bad situations,” said Kern. “The seniors on our team have really grown has leaders this year, which has been very valuable to us in every game.”

RTR started the first half holding Dawson-Boyd scoreless for the first minute and a half, and found themselves at a 2-2 tie at 15:25. The Blackjacks would hold a small lead over the Knights, but RTR didn’t let them hold it for long. Playing aggressive and efficiently right from the start of the game, the Knights started to pull away with a bigger lead at 16-9 with a little under 10 minutes remaining on the clock. Dawson-Boyd saw a big offensive play with a pass from Jake Lee to Colton Husby for the score that got the Blackjacks to close the gap to five points with 8:58 remaining on the clock. Westin Kirk saw a lot of success under the basket for the Knights, pulling in big rebounds and putting back strong shots in return, along with teammate Jonah Johnson, who also played a big role on both ends for RTR. Johnson found an opportunity for a big play of his own, putting up a shot that grew the Knights lead to 20-13 with 7:58 left in the first half.

There wasn’t a dull moment from either team on both ends of the court, as the energy that filled the gym for both teams helped keep them playing on their toes and never missing an opportunity. With that, RTR found exactly what it needed to continue to find the success on the offensive end of things, but the big plays from the Knights were answered by the Blackjacks who closed the score to a three-point gap at 20-17 with 6:01 remaining on the clock before pulling to within two at 21-19.

RTR then responded back to the Blackjacks’ strong offensive plays and started to make big plays on the defensive end with key steals, passes and shots that led them to grow its lead to 25-19 with 4:48 left to play in the first. Dawson-Boyd continued to fight back, however, and eventually found itself in the lead, just one point ahead of the Knights at 28-27 with 1:45 remaining on the clock. The Knights didn’t let that last long as they got their heads back into the game with Garrett Kern putting up a shot that got RTR back in the lead with 1:19 left before Kirk helped put the Knights up more with another shot that extended their lead to 31-28 at the half.

The Knights came into the second half with a big spark, as they started off with a big seven-point run for the first two minutes of the half that brought them to an eight-point lead at 38-30. Dawson-Boyd’s Alex Swenson found his opportunity on the arc and put one in to close the gap on the Knights at 42-35, but RTR continued to have success under the basket with its rebounding, which helped the Knights extend their lead to 46-35. The Blackjacks offense hit a drought over the next few minutes as they couldn’t connect on any of their shots or passes, which led to the Knights offense dominating the pace with a 3-pointer from Garrett Kern that grew their lead even more to 51-37 with 6:23 remaining on the clock. During the few remaining minutes on the clock, the Blackjacks struggled to find the connection on offense that they were hoping for but was then picked up when Swenson found the basket, putting more points up on the board for Dawson-Boyd but it still trailed 56-44 with four minutes left in the game. Following Swenson’s basket was another key basket from Bentley Boike who closed the gap to nine points, 58-47, but RTR found their spark again and continued to dominate the offensive end of things for the remainder of the half that brought them to a victory over the Blackjacks with a final score of 66-56.

RTR and Dawson-Boyd will both be back in action on Saturday and will play in the Section 3A Tournament, with RTR being the No. 1 South seed and Dawson-Boyd being the No. 2 North seed. The Knights will face the winner of the No. 8S Fulda/No. 9S HLO game at 11 a.m. in Worthington while the Blackjacks will face the winner of the No. 7N CMCS/No. 10N YME game at 2:30 p.m. in Montevideo.

Going into their next game, coach Kern wants the team to be ready for what’s coming next with the tournament, and know that every game they play will be just like the one they played against the Blackjacks.

“This is what the tournament is going to be like and it was good for us to experience that tonight and hopefully we can take that going forward,” said Kern.