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Eagles hold off physical Wolverines

As the season has progressed, so has the Mitchell Christian boys' basketball team, and this was one of head coach Tom Young's main goals for the year.

MCHS beats White Lake
Luke Hagen/Republic Mitchell Christian's Jesse Tolsma goes up for a shot while White Lake's Shane Thiry (35) tries to defend in the first half of Monday's game in the Mitchell Christian High School gymnasium.

As the season has progressed, so has the Mitchell Christian boys' basketball team, and this was one of head coach Tom Young's main goals for the year.

With Young in Brookings watching his daughter Jill play for the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits Monday night, the No. 1-ranked Eagles continued learning and progressing without their head coach.

Mitchell Christian defeated White Lake 54-41 in the Mitchell Christian High School gymnasium in a game where the Eagles learned a lot about being tough.

"This was a learning experience for our guys," said assistant coach Jay Tolsma, who was the acting head coach for the Eagles. "You've got to be physically and mentally tough, and I guess we did enough to get out on top."

Throughout the game, the Eagles battled physical play from White Lake, which kept the Wolverines within 10 points until midway through the third quarter.

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The undefeated Eagles put together a 10-2 run to open the game, and almost every Eagles' starter contributed to the score in the first quarter, including Alex Carnes, who had seven of his eight points in the first quarter.

White Lake pulled within six when Shane Thiry hit a 3-pointer, but Mitchell Christian pulled away to end the half with a 3-point play from Jesse Tolsma and two free throws from point guard Matt Nielson.

Tolsma and Nielson combined for 31 of Mitchell Christian's 54 points. Tolsma had a game-high 22 points and nine rebounds, and Nielson finished with nine points and nine assists.

For White Lake, the team showed flashes of strong offensive play, but the Wolverines didn't stay consistent during the game.

"We started out turning the ball over," White Lake coach Paul Munsen said. "We had to have had a dozen turnovers in the first half, and offensively we were terribly undisciplined."

Twice in the third quarter White Lake pulled within seven, but Jesse Tolsma was too much offensively. He scored eight points in the quarter, including a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.

The fourth quarter was a free-throw frenzy. Mitchell Christian didn't hit a field goal in the final quarter, hitting 16-of-23 free throws in the fourth.

White Lake continued its spotty offense, and it too saw numerous free-throw attempts -- 10 in the fourth -- but the Wolverines couldn't ever get closer than 10 points.

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"We were playing one of the most disciplined teams in the state," Munsen said. "If we don't make errant passes, this isn't a 13-point game, and in fact we may have a chance at the end to win it."

The Eagles' Matt Beukelman was 7-of-10 from the free-throw line in the final quarter, and he finished with 14 points.

White Lake was 16-of-37 in the game and was led by Tyson Peters with 14 points.

Mitchell Christian had only 26 field goal attempts in the game and it hit 50 percent of them.

The undefeated Eagles -- the only unbeaten team in Class B -- moved to No. 1 in the B polls on Jan. 26 after being unranked to open the season. Young said he hoped the team would improve each and every game throughout the season, playing its best basketball come the playoffs.

"There are plenty of things we can take from this game," Tolsma said. "One was we need to get physically and mentally tough... and then at the end of the game we need to work on our free throws a little better. Also, we need to be smarter at the end of the game -- just to finish and play a full 32 minutes."

The Eagles' next game is on Thursday at 8 p.m. against Plankinton, though the team won't be playing at its regular venue. Mitchell Christian will be at the Corn Palace in a double header with the girls' team starting at 6:30 p.m.

Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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