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Eagles stay perfect with win over Corsica

Luke Hagen/Republic Eagles' point guard Matt Nielson runs the ball up the court in the second half of Tuesday's game against Corsica in the Mitchell Christian gymnasium.

The Mitchell Christian boys' basketball team is seven games into the season, still undefeated.

The Eagles came into the season without the preseason rankings or the target on their backs like the past two years, but after claiming their latest victim, Corsica, on Tuesday night, No. 7 MCHS clearly is one of the top teams in Class B.

Mitchell Christian's Jesse Tolsma, the player with the most experience going into the season, scored 43 points in the team's 70-57 win over the Comets. Tolsma missed only four shots from the field all game, and he recorded another double-double with 11 rebounds to add to his huge scoring affair.

"It's a good start," Tolsma said. "Surprised? Yeah. But we knew we had the talent. We just knew we had to get better every game and hope to be playing our best come tournament time."

Mitchell Christian is one of a handful of Class B teams in the state that is still undefeated, and head coach Tom Young said if someone would have told him his team would be 7-0 at this point, he would have been surprised as well.

"I've been really happy with the kids' effort," Young said. "One thing about our kids is they play very hard and are unselfish with the ball."

The Eagles opened the game on a 9-3 run when Tolsma and point guard Matt Nielson hit two buckets each. Corsica tried to double team Tolsma early, but Nielson found Matt Beukelman and Cody Thomsen for scores.

The Comets' Kirbey Baan Hofman got his team going and scored six of the Comets' first eight points, including a 3-pointer at 2:45 to pull Corsica within six. He had a team-high 16 points.

Corsica kept the game within reach in the second quarter with physical play and scored most of its points low and inside. Luke Bamberg hit a runner from inside the paint and Jared Eggers dropped in a shot with the foul to pull his team within eight.

The Comets trailed 33-25 at the half, and Tolsma had 21 of his 43 before the break.

The third quarter was when the 6-foot-2 junior forward really shined. Tolsma scored 15 of his team's 17 third-quarter points. The only other bucket came at about the three-minute mark when Thomsen hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 49-33.

"The (third quarter) run was really big, but we ended the quarter bad," Young said. "We missed two layups and gave them two easy shots. Instead of having an 18-point lead and the ball back, we let them right back into it. That was the most disappointing part of the game for me."

Corsica finished the third when Kiefer Johnson hit a jumper from 15 feet, and after a MCHS turnover, Riley Schrank dropped in a layup with about 45 seconds remaining.

Schrank opened the fourth with another shot from down low, and Bamberg and Baan Hofman scored on back-to-back possessions to get Corsica within 10. Schrank finished with nine points, with five coming in the third.

Young said his team got careless with the ball early in the fourth, which resulted in three turnovers in four possessions in the first three minutes.

"I felt like maybe we gave them too much inside, especially in the second half," Young said.

Tolsma helped pull the team back to an 11-point lead with a strong move down the baseline, a move he used numerous times throughout the game.

"It's a move I like, but you've got to have others too," Tolsma said. "I just try to take what they give me."

Trailing by 13, Corsica started fouling Mitchell Christian with about three minutes remaining. The Golden Eagles responded, hitting 9-of-14 in clutch situations.

MCHS finished the game hitting 24-of-40 shots from the field for a red-hot 60 percent from the field.

Nielson was the next highest scorer on the Eagles' roster with 10 points. He also added nine assists. The only other scorers for MCHS were Thomsen with nine and Beukelman with eight.

Corsica's record dropped to 5-3 and it is now on a two-game losing streak after opening the season 5-1.

The win was the closest game yet for Mitchell Christian, as it's defeated all of its opponents by an average of 24 points per game. The Eagles travel to Corsica to play Dakota Christian on Thursday.