ABERDEEN, S.D. (KELO) — The Aberdeen Christian boys basketball qualified for their first ever state tournament in 2020, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, halting their chance to play in a state tournament.
On Thursday, the Knights finally got to play in their first state tournament game in school history and they took advantage as the seventh-seeded Knights earned a 55-49 upset win over #2 Canistota.
“It is our first time ever playing a game at state and just an incredible atmosphere. Something you dream about,” Aberdeen Christian head coach David Rohrbach said. “It was everything you’d hope for and it was a lot of fun!”
The Knights trailed 49-48 with a minute to play. That’s when sophomore Ethan Russell got the shooters bounce to give his team a 51-49 lead.
“That was a huge shot, just a massive, massive shot,” Rohrbach said. “Just to be able to step up in the moment, when we needed a bucket, that was huge. It hit every part of the rim, but it was relieving when it went in.”
Thirty seconds later, the Knights were in possession of the ball again, while still leading by two. Facing a strong press, Aberdeen Christian would use five passes as each of the players on the floor touched the ball, leading to a wide open layup for Jett Becker. The Knights now led 53-49 with 24 seconds to play.
“It ran through my head to call a timeout, because you’re thinking, please don’t turn it over, this is a huge possession,” Rohrbach said. “As the play goes, we get a layup and our guys executed it perfectly. Credit to them, just maturely run by our guys.”
The Knights would hang on to pick up the 55-49 win.
Aberdeen Christian played the basketball game the exact way they have all season with smart offensive possessions and strong defense.
“We definitely preach defense and it’s our believe that if you’re going to win consistantly, that you have to be able to rely on defense,” Rohrbach said. “Our guys stepped up tonight and made stops when we needed to.”
Offensively, the Knights shot an impressive 50% from the field while five players scored at least nine points.
“That has kind of been our thing this season. If you look at our stats, we have five guys that averaging 8.8 and above,” Rohrbach said. “That is pretty how you would expect our kids to be and that makes us, in a way a tough team to scout.”
Russell led the way for the Knights as he tallied a team high 14 points and 8 rebounds.
As for Canistota, they were led by Tyce Ortman who scored a game high 15 points.
“He’s a really good athlete and they put him in a lot of screen action,” Rohrbach said. “We struggled tonight, if you don’t stay long enough, he’s quick to get to the rim and if you don’t stay with him long enough, he is going to get to the rim.”
Following their first state tournament win in school history, Aberdeen Christian will advance to the state semi-finals where they will meet #3 White River or #6 Dell Rapids St. Mary.
“I think it will sink in later, it’s still pretty hard to believe. You always dream of playing in state for one, but especially in those nights like Friday and Saturday and to be there, is pretty cool,” Rohrbach said.
Stay up to date with the scores from all three state tournaments by visiting the page above.