RTR takes control of Camden

DAWSON – The Dawson-Boyd high school gymnasium sprawls, the stands hanging some distance off to either side. Though the reasoning for the space between the crowd and the court is accidental (an err at the time of purchase over a decade ago), the planning seemed intentional for Thursday’s top 10 boys’ basketball matchup.

The excess space, which swallows sound from the fans, provided the patrons with a unique viewing point of a battle between opposing basketball philosophies, as No. 5 Russell-Tyler-Ruthton traded barrages in the paint with each salvo of jump shots from No. 10 Dawson-Boyd. So when the RTR faithful exclaimed following Brett Peterson’s two made free throws to put the Knights up 73-69 with 20 seconds left in the game, the lingering sound proved a true indicator of just what this game meant to both teams.

Peterson’s free throws came 48 seconds after the junior had burst through the lane and finished with a layup to give RTR a 71-69 lead. The layup, just two of Peterson’s team-high 27 points, ended up as the game-winning basket with the Knights holding on for a 74-69 win.

“Historically we have never played real strong up in Dawson, so it’s nice to come in here and get one,” RTR head coach Ted Kern said. The win, RTR’s seventh in a row, moved the Knights to 15-1 on the season and a perfect 8-0 in Camden Conference play.

The Blackjacks (12-3 overall, 7-2 Camden) led by 10 points with six minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the game, building their lead with pinpoint shooting from outside after trailing 37-35 at halftime. The quick shots, which had been the Blackjacks’ ally for the first 34 minutes of the game, turned against Dawson-Boyd in the end, however.

“There are times where you have to understand when to have (the quick shots),” Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson said. “When you’ve got an eight-point lead and the other team just scored a bucket on the other end to cut into that lead, you have to trust that you’re going to get that same shot seven or eight passes into your possession. If you miss that shot, it feeds into the other team’s momentum.”

On the back of Blackjack misses, the Knights were able to turn up the court and return to the interior game which had caused havoc during the first half.

Following a miss, Peterson scored on a tip-in with 6:16 to play to cut the Blackjack lead down to 64-58. Dylan Kor followed with a hard-nosed bucket, before Shay Wabeke knocked down a 3-pointer in transition to cut the Dawson-Boyd lead to three points with 5:14 left in the game.

Nathaniel Huot nailed a 15-footer to put the Blackjacks up 66-61 with 4:25 remaining, but Brett Vercruysse was fouled on a layup attempt on the other end. Vercruysse hit both freebies and the RTR deficit was back to three.

Peterson scored the next four points, giving the Knights their first lead since leading 43-42 with 15:45 to play. Vercruysse added another layup, before Huot drained a 3 from the left wing to tie the game at 69-69 with under 90 seconds to play.

Huot, who led Dawson-Boyd with 27 points and seven 3s, utilized each extra moment his teammates bought for him with screens, while his quick release took advantage of the slightly late RTR defenders.

“(Our guys were) a little slow, but as quick as that shot is, a little slow is an eternity for Nathaniel,” Kern said. “I thought, by and large, we did a pretty good job of getting a hand in his face, but with his elevation and quick shot it’s a tough shot to stop.”

Joining Huot in double-figures for the Blackjacks were Joey Lee and Michael Lee. Joey Lee added 16 points, including a rim-rocking dunk to give the Blackjacks their first lead of the second half at 40-39 with 16:43 remaining. Michael Lee used his inside-out game to score 13 points, despite facing a myriad of RTR big men.

One of those big men was Dylan Kor, who poured in 20 points. Twelve of those 20 came in the first half, with eight of those coming from offensive rebound put-backs. Brett Vercruysse added 11 points playing in the post, while Shay Wabeke chipped in 13.

“You know, in the first half Vercruysse and Kor kind of hurt us, just giving them those points off of offensive rebounds,” Larson said. “If it wasn’t for that, we might have had a 10-point lead at halftime. It was a matter of guys on the back side sinking a little harder, a little quicker, getting a body on that kid.”

RTR out-rebounded Dawson-Boyd 29-19 for the game, while making 28 field goals to the Blackjacks’ 13. In response, Dawson-Boyd made 12 3-pointers to RTR’s two. Peterson added 10 rebounds to his 27 points for the game’s only double-double.

RTR will look to stretch its win streak to eight games on Saturday, as the Knights host Ortonville in Tyler. Dawson-Boyd, meanwhile, must prepare for another strenuous Camden Conference test in the near future.

“Like I just told the kids, if you had won this game you would have had a lot more breathing room, but next week we’ve got two huge games,” Larson said. “On the road at Minneota on Tuesday and at (Central Minnesota Christian) on Friday. Those are two huge games, two tough places to play against two quality teams.”