RTR bounces back

TYLER – For the second time in a week, the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton boys’ basketball team tipped off against another Class A Top 10 opponent. After a narrow overtime loss to Southwest Minnesota Christian on Saturday, the seventh-ranked Knights played host to the No. 9 MACCRAY Wolverines on Thursday in a marquee Camden Conference matchup.

Behind four players in double figures, including a game-high 15 points from Brett Peterson, the Knights declawed the Wolverines in a 58-42 victory.

Forty of RTR’s points came in the second half, as the MACCRAY zone defense disrupted the Knights on the offensive end of the floor.

“Well, the first half we were definitely settling for the outside,” RTR head coach Ted Kern said. “Ten 3-pointers and 10 2-pointers were attempted in the first half and that’s kind of playing right into their hands. They executed their defense well, but we definitely were settling. We wanted to focus more on getting the ball inside and trying to hit cuts off of that.”

The Knights made just six fieldgoals in the opening 18 minutes, but were able to equally confuse the Wolverines on defense to take an 18-15 lead at the break.

MACCRAY made the first bucket of the second half as Bailey Boike knocked down a quick jumper to cut the RTR lead down to a point with 17 minutes, 44 seconds to play.

RTR guard Shay Wabeke responded with a pair of free throws at the 16:56 mark, but Boike answered right back with a layup.

The wheels nearly came off for the Knights as their next two possessions ended in turnovers and fastbreak points for MACCRAY, as Jacob Aviles gave the Wolverines a 23-20 lead with 15:58 to play.

Rather than panic, however, Kern called a timeout and used the opportunity to remind his players of their halftime discussions.

“We had talked at halftime about executing against that zone,” Kern said. “Their length really gave us fits in the first half and the second half, we came out kind of doing a lot of the same things we had in the first. We took that timeout to refocus a little bit and get them back to thinking about what we had talked about at halftime. We executed pretty well from there on out.”

After the timeout, the Knights began locating their bigs on the block and getting the ball into the paint.

Forward Newt Dunblazier scored an easy layup eight seconds out of the timeout to put the Knights a point off the lead, while Peterson knocked down a 3 in front of the the collapsing zone to put RTR back in the lead, 25-23.

“We came out and gave (MACCRAY) a little bit of momentum,” Peterson said. “We just had to come out and finish the game strong. And that’s what we did.

“We really started to execute a lot better. You know, the first half we were rushing it and not executing our offense at all. We continued to play good defense and defense wins games, and that’s what brought around our offense.”

Although MACCRAY nearly doubled its offensive production from the first half, the Knights were able to lock down at key moments to prevent the Wolverines from going on any runs. Meanwhile, RTR used three key runs to blow open the game.

A 7-0 run from the 12:33 mark until the 11:20 mark extended the RTR lead from three points at 31-28 to 10 points at 38-28.

Later, a 10-0 run lasting over four minutes, and featuring a dagger 3-pointer by Wabeke from the right corner, turned a 7-point RTR lead with 6:25 remaining into a 17-point lead with 2:48 left in the game.

RTR would make one last basket in the game, as Peterson twisted his way to the rim and made the shot despite getting fouled. He sunk the “and one” to give RTR a 58-40 lead with 1:42 seconds to play while the crowd rose to its feet.

Peterson added eight rebounds to his 15 points, while Kor (13), Wabeke (11) and Dunblazier (10) all reached double figures scoring.

It is this balance which has lifted the Knights to an 11-1 start (4-0 Camden Conference) and will be pivotal if RTR wants to stand atop the conference at the end of the season.

“The Camden Conference is definitely a strong conference this year,” he said. “Dawson, MACCRAY, Canby has a very nice ball team, Minneota is improving all the time. There are no nights off and everyone is going to play hard.”

Peterson echoed the sentiment of his coach.

“It’s really tough,” Peterson said of the Camden Conference. “There are a lot of good teams out there and we can compete with any one of them. But we’ve got to fight for every game we play. It’s not just those teams, we’ve got to come ready to play every night.”

Next up for RTR is a road trip on Tuesday to face Renville County West, whereas MACCRAY (8-3, 5-2) hosts a non-conference match-up with Montevideo on Monday.