Trojan boys close regular season with big win


TCR/CRAIG JOHNSON Luke O’Hare chipped in 16 points and a team-high five rebounds versus Lewiston-Altura last week.
By : 
Chad Smith
Tri-County Record

The Rushford-Peterson boys’ basketball team won last Friday night, snapping a four-game losing skid and bringing the regular season to a close. The Trojans dropped their home finale on Monday, Feb. 15, to Lewiston-Altura on a last-second three-pointer. The Trojans then lost a road game at Dover-Eyota on Thursday, Feb. 21, before grabbing the road win at Fillmore Central on Friday Feb 22. The Trojans are 16-10 overall (10-6 TRC) heading into the postseason. 

R-P vs. L-A

The final home game of the regular season was a rematch with the Cardinals, who couldn’t fight off a late Trojans surge and lost to R-P by nine (74-65) on Jan. 25. The rematch was even closer, as the Trojans had a 64-63 lead with 23 seconds left. But a L-A three-point shot at the buzzer gave the Cardinals the 66-64 win.

The game was a defensive struggle in the first half, with each offense picking up the pace after halftime. The game was tied at 27-all before L-A managed a 39-38 second-half edge to pull out the win.

The Trojan offense was efficient against the taller Cardinals, making 25 of 44 shots (56%). R-P shot extremely well from two-point range, going 22 for 36 (61%). They didn’t attempt a lot of shots outside the arc (8) but they did drain three treys. They also made 12 of their 18 free throws.

Landon Skalet led the Trojan offense with 19 points and a team-high four assists. O’Hare chipped in 16 points and a team-best five rebounds. Justin Ruberg was just shy of double figures with eight points and three rebounds.

The Trojans grabbed a total of just 17 rebounds against the taller Cardinals. Defensively, the Trojans had eight steals (Malachi Bunke 2, Vinnie Mason 2) while committing just eight turnovers.

R-P vs. D-E

 The slow-scoring first half was the difference for R-P. The  Trojans offense mustered only 19 points and trailed by 12 (31-19) at halftime. The Eagles won the second half scoring by one point (27-26) and took the conference game 45-58.

“You could tell the team was a little down after dropping three straight close games like that,” Drinkall said. “Losing three games by a total of eight points would be hard for anyone to take. It’s a long four-month season and we’ve played some good ball. Those three losses were a learning experience for 14-and-15-year-old kids who haven’t been through it before.”

 The Trojans hit only 17 field goals in the game (43% shooting). 14 of 29 shots were two-pointers (48%), while the team added three shots from outside the arc. The Trojans had two double-figure scorers;  Kobe Lind and Ruberg each had ten points. R-P hit just eight of their 14 free throws.

Skalet was the assist leader with six of the team’s 12 helpers. Trey Olson and Skalet had the team’s only steals of the night while the Trojans’ offense committed 11 turnovers.

R-P vs. FC

The Trojans came out firing and took any suspense out of the game with a 100-point pace (51-19) at the break. The game was closer in the second half, with Fillmore Central holding a six-point edge (26-20). But the 71-45 R-P win ended the regular season on a positive note.

“The kids played really hard,” Drinkall said. “They were diving all over the floor after loose balls and going nuts on defense. We got some easy transition layups and you could see the kids were enjoying playing basketball that night. After the week we had, it was really nice to get out there and take control of the game.

“Dropping three close games in a row like that isn’t just hard on players, it’s hard on coaches, parents, and fans. I think that’s only going to help us in the playoffs. We’ve been in a number of close games and we know that we have to play until the final buzzer. We’ve had last-second shots made against us and we know we can return the favor as well.”

O’Hare led the team in scoring with 19 points, tied for the team lead with seven rebounds, and led the team in steals (5) and assist (5). Trey Olson broke double figures with one of his best games, scoring 12 points.

The team hit 52 percent of its shots (27 of 52) and shot well from both two-point range (21 of 34, 62%) and outside the arc, hitting six of 18 threes (33%). The Trojans also shot well at the free throw line, making 11 of 14 (78%) from the stripe.

R-P improved its rebounding total from earlier in the week, grabbing 31 rebounds (11 offensive). Ruberg tied for the team-lead with seven rebounds and Ben Wieser added five.

Malachai Bunke tied O’Hare for the team lead with five assists. He also had three steals, while Skalet and Lind each had two.

The Trojans finished with 19 assists, 12 steals, and 11 turnovers.

Schedule

The Trojans are the No. 3 seed in the Section 1A tournament, which began with play-in games on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The Trojans will host the winner of Tuesday night’s matchup Southland and Glenville-Emmons, on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m.

Drinkall said the Section 1A tournament features several  good teams every year. “A number of different teams can win it this year,” he said. “Take a No. 7 seed Kingsland. They went down to the buzzer both times with Spring Grove and they’ve pulled some upsets in the last couple years. Hayfield is a very good team, and Spring Grove and Randolph both have only two losses on the season. You’ll have to play three really good games in a row to get out of the tournament alive.”

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