PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Knights edge Vikings to stay undefeated

Photo by Brennen Rupp RTR’s Westin Kirk looks to score during their game against Minneota on Thursday. The Knights defeated the Vikings 60-52.

TYLER – The Minneota Vikings entered Thursday night’s matchup against the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Knights with a 16-1 record and an offense that was averaging 82.3 points per game. The Knights entered the contest as the third-ranked team in Class 1A, with an 18-0 record and a defense that was giving up 40.8 points per game.

In a battle between the top two teams in the Camden South Conference something had to give. The old saying goes defense wins championships and RTR’s championship caliber defense put the clamps on Minneota’s high scoring offense. The Knights held Minneota to a season low 52 points en route to a 60-52 victory.

“It was all about communication,” RTR’s Garrett Kern said. “Our communication was lacking in the first part of the second half. We really picked it up and we were able to get the win.”

Kern opened the scoring for the Knights by knocking down a 3-pointer to put the home team up early. Minneota’s Thomas Hennen answered with a 3-pointer of his own to tie the game at 3-3. An Isaac Hennen layup gave the Vikings a 5-3 lead. Kern then knocked down his second 3-pointer to give the Knights a 6-5 advantage.

“That was big,” Kern said. “It’s been a tough couple of games for me. I haven’t been able to hit as many as I’d like.”

With the Knights holding a 10-6 lead Thomas Hennen knocked down his second 3-pointer of the game to trim the lead to 10-9. Kern knocked down a jumper to put the Knights up 12-9. Kern’s jumper started a 11-0 RTR run that put the Knights up 21-9.

Thomas Hennen knocked down his third 3-pointer of the first half to put a stop to RTR’s run. Cooper Hansen then scored five straight points for the Knights to give RTR a 26-12 lead.

With RTR holding a comfortable 28-14 lead Thomas Hennen knocked down his fourth 3-pointer of the first half to trim RTR’s double-digit lead to 28-17. Logan Sussner converted a 3-point play for the Vikings to trim RTR’s lead to 30-20.

At the half the Knights led the Vikings 33-27. Minneota coach Dave Busselman said his team did a nice job of weathering the storm in the first half.

“I think we just attacked,” he said. “We wanted to attack out of their pressure. The pressure didn’t get to us right away. We mixed some things up defensively. We took some shots on offense that weren’t advised. That led to some fastbreak points for them.”

The Vikings opened the second half on a 7-0 run to take a 35-34 lead. Busselman said his team did a nice job of attacking the rim to open the second half.

“I think we were aggressive,” Busselman said. “We attacked the lane a little bit more. After that we got outside happy. We have to attack the lane more. We missed some high-low action opportunities.”

Westin Kirk scored for the Knights to put an end to Minneota’s 7-0 run. Thomas Hennen then knocked down his fifth 3-pointer of the game to give the Vikings a 37-35 lead.

A pair of Kern free throws tied the game back up at 37-37. A Carter Hansen bucket gave the Knights a 39-37 lead.

Sussner converted a 3-point play to put the Vikings up 40-39. A Kern 3-pointer tied the game up at 44-44.

A Jonah Johnson layup tied the game up at 48-48. Kirk then knocked down a basket to put the Knights up 50-48.

A Johnson 3-pointer gave the Knights a 56-49 lead with 3:20 left in the game. Thomas Hennen then knocked down another 3-pointer to cut RTR’s lead to 56-52. Unfortunately for the Vikings that would be the last basket they’d make in the game.

Despite the loss Busselman said he was pleased with the way his team battled on the road against a top 10 team.

“It’s that time of the year where we want to be competitive,” he said. “I think we were. That’s all you want. You want to be in the ball game at the end. It got out to eight, but we were there.”

Kern led the Knights with 20 points. Kirk finished with 14 points. Cooper Hansen recorded a double-double for the Knights, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Johnson scored nine points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

With the victory the Knights improved to 19-0. The Knights will be back in action on Feb. 9, against Yellow Medicine East.

“We need to make some free throws,” Kern said. “It be nice to see some fall through the net.”

Thomas Hennen finished the game with 24 points and seven rebounds for the Vikings. Sussner finished the game with 14 points and five rebounds.

The loss is Minneota’s second on the season and they currently own a 16-2 record. They’ll be back in action on Monday against Fulda. The Knights and Vikings will square off again on Feb. 20, in Minneota. Busselman said his team is looking forward to the rematch.

“The intimidation factor is over,” Busselman said. “I don’t think they intimated us. That’s something I think teams had problems with right away. I think as a young team that intimidation factor is over. We get another shot at this team in a few weeks. WE are looking forward to that challenge on our floor. Maybe we’ll shoot the ball a little better. Maybe we’ll get a 50-50 ball that goes our way.”

Minneota 27 25 52

RTR 33 27 60

SCORING: RTR (Kern 20; Kirk 14; Cooper Hansen 10; Johnson 9); Minneota (T. Hennen 24; Sussner 14; I. Hennen 6; J. Hennen 5).

REBOUNDING: RTR (Cooper Hansen, Johnson 11); Minneota (J. Hennen 10; I. Hennen 8; T. Hennen 7; Sussner 5).

ASSISTS: RTR (Cooper Hansen 6; Carter Hansen 4); Minneota (L. Sussner 5).

BLOCKS: RTR (Three with 1); Minneota (Sussner 1).

TURNOVERS: RTR 8; Minneota 22

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