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Ethan senior Jace Connor dribbles the ball down the court during the Class B state boys’ basketball semifinal game Friday night at the Barnett Center in Aberdeen. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

Connor playing big role for Rustlers after injury

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ABERDEEN — Jace Connor missed all but one play for the Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan football team in the fall, getting in for a snap late in the fourth quarter of the Class 9AA title game.

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Connor was on track to start at quarterback for the 2013 Seahawks, but an injury sustained while working over the summer cost him his senior football season.

When basketball rolled around for Ethan, Connor was on the practice court from day one and has helped lead the Rustlers to the Class B state boys’ basketball tournament with solid play and leadership.

“I was worried coming into the season about Jace being tentative and you could hardly blame him,” Ethan coach Bryce Roth said. “His intelligence defensively and offensively has been huge for us all season.”

The 6-foot-3 forward averaged 11 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game during the regular season for the Rustlers, who entered the state tournament with a 20-3 overall record.

“I didn’t think I was going to get the opportunity to play basketball this year,” Connor said after the Rustler fell in the Class B state semifinals Friday in Aberdeen.

Connor fractured his back while working at Ethan Co-op Lumber on July 27. A 1,000-pound cement block fell from the top of a stack on to his back fracturing the S1 and L5 — vertebrae at the bottom of the spine — which were fused together during a 2 1/2-hour surgery. He also fractured two more vertebrae that were not operated on.

“I play the same way that I used to before the injury,” Connor said, adding he knew when practice started this season he was ready to play.

Connor scored 18 points in the Rustlers’ Class B quarterfinal win over White River Thursday, and added six points and seven rebounds in the team’s semifinal loss Friday.

Ethan plays Potter County for third place in Class B at 6 p.m. today at the Barnett Center.

“We haven’t been to the state tournament in 13 years so we wanted to come here and leave our mark,” Connor said.

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