RTR boys fight off red-hot Raiders for 77-74 win

MARSHALL – An upset-minded Fulda boys’ basketball team caught fire from beyond the arc and put a serious scare in Class A’s fifth-ranked team. But not even 16 3-pointers by the Raiders were enough beat Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Saturday, as the Knights got some key baskets by their big men down the stretch and held on for a 77-74 victory at Southwest Minnesota State University, their 11th win in a row.

Fulda (6-13 overall) senior guard Andy Oakland hit seven 3s himself and scored a game-high 29 points. He and his Raider teammates ignited from long distance and never really cooled down, hitting nine 3s in the first half and seven in the second half. They had a chance to tie the game with a 3 at the end of regulation, but attempts from Josh Ramerth and Cole Dierks in the final five seconds were off the mark and the Knights (19-1) were finally able to breathe a sigh of a relief.

Few would have predicted Saturday’s matchup to be close, as the Knights have outscored opponents by an average of more than 25 points per game. Thanks to crisp ball movement by the Raiders and some lax perimeter defense by Knights, the game ended up being much, much closer than expected as Fulda kept pouring in shots from distance.

“That isn’t the kind of defense that’s going to get you to where we we want to go,” RTR head coach Ted Kern said. “Top to bottom, they can shoot the 3-pointer. We knew that coming in, we just didn’t do a very good job of making them difficult shots. They executed their game plan very well and we didn’t do anything to take them out of it.”

RTR forward Dylan Kor led the Knights in scoring (26), rebounding (10) and assists (five) and came up with the key play that won the game for his team. The squads were knotted at 74-74 after a 3 by Fulda’s Todd Peterson with 44 seconds left. On the Knights’ next possession, Kor converted on an old-fashioned 3-point play when he spun baseline, knocked down a close-range shot through contact and made a free throw after the foul with 19.8 seconds left.

Knights junior guard Brett Peterson chipped in 20 points, seven rebounds and five steals. And RTR centers Brett Vercruysse and Newt Dunblazier scored 16 and 10 points, respectively, both coming up with key interior passes and baskets down the stretch as the Raiders were breathing down the Knights’ neck.

The game appeared as if it would be a runaway in the opening minutes. Fulda scored the first basket, but RTR scored the next 18 points to grab a commanding 16-point lead. Brett Peterson had six points during the stretch and 15 points in the first half.

The Raiders took the initial punch, then answered back with jab after jab after jab. Oakland hit the team’s first 3 from the top of the key about eight minutes into the game and that started a downpour. All but two of the team’s next 29 points came via the 3-point shot as Fulda cut the lead down to 40-33 by halftime.

“Really, they just shot the lights out,” Kor said of the Raiders. “They were hot today and there’s not much you can do, but you have to get out there and get a hand up better on them. We did a bad job of that today.”

RTR pushed the lead back up to double figures within the first four minutes of the second half. Then the 3s started falling again. Josh Ramerth knocked won the first with 12:30 left in the game and the Raiders hit three more over the next two minutes. Another 3 by Ramerth with 10:48 remaining gave Fulda its second lead of the game at 58-57.

As the game got tighter, so did the Knights. They had a spell where they struggled to get much going offensively and fell behind 65-60 before an 8-0 run helped them retake the lead. The run was capped by an interior pass from Dunblazier to Kor, who scored on a layup with 5:35 left. RTR never trailed again from there, though Fulda did tie the game twice more before the final buzzer.

“When you get a team that’s shooting the ball like they did, it does put a little pressure on you offensively,” Kern said. “We didn’t respond real well at first, but down the stretch I thought we executed very well and were fortunately able to get some shots to go.”