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Aberdeen Christian mounts comeback to top Platte-Geddes, return to state tourney

“When they called off last year, getting into the gym right after they called it,” Aberdeen Christian’s Malek Wieker said. “I had more motivation, like I have to get back there. That’s what I want. That’s the final goal.”

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Platte-Geddes' Nate Whalen goes up for a shot against Aberdeen Christian on Tuesday in SoDak 16 action. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)

HURON -- Aberdeen Christian is heading back to the state tournament, and this time, it hopes to play.

The Knights qualified for their first state tournament in program history last season, but didn’t get a chance to play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This season, they’ll get that chance after a 55-43 win over Platte-Geddes in the SoDak 16 on Tuesday at the Huron Arena.

“When they called off last year, getting into the gym right after they called it,” Aberdeen Christian’s Malek Wieker said. “I had more motivation, like I have to get back there. That’s what I want. That’s the final goal.”

It took nearly an entire half for the Knights to find momentum. They didn’t score for the first 4 minutes of the second quarter, allowing Platte-Geddes to take an 18-5 lead. But once Aberdeen Christian found its footing on both ends, the Black Panthers struggled to find an answer.

Aberdeen Christian (18-4) ended the half on a 7-0 run, with Brent Ekanger slamming home a two-handed dunk, to make it a 23-20 deficit at the half. It kept the momentum the rest of the game, while Ekanger finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and four steals.

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“We got a couple of shots to go. We saw some 3s go down and our defensive intensity picked up,” Aberdeen Christian coach David Rohrbach said “… Once we started hitting some shots, I think our focus on defense picked up, as well.”

The open lanes cutters were able to get disappeared in the second half due to the Knights’ length. And when the Black Panthers found an open shot at the rim, they struggled to connect.

Plate-Geddes’ Brody Boltjes opened the second half with a 3, which coach Frank Cutler thought would get its offense back on track. Instead, Aberdeen’s length forced Kelby VanDerWerff and Caden Foxley into off-shooting nights. Plate-Geddes shot 34 percent from the field.

Foxley had 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting, but his inside presence forced Jett Becker to foul out. With Ekanger as his main defender, VanDerWerff was held to seven points and nine rebounds.

“They blocked a couple of shots when we felt we had some open looks,” Cutler said. “They got (seven) steals. And we knew their length was going to be an issue. Early it wasn’t, and late it was.”

Led by Wieker’s game-high 21 points on 7 of 10 shooting, including 4-for-5 from deep, the Knights took a 28-27 advantage with 3:58 left in the third quarter. They shot 55.6 percent in the second half.

It held a 36-32 lead by the end of the quarter, and grew it to as many as 12 points in the last frame. Jackson Isakson also scored 19 points in the win.

“Not getting to play last year was obviously tough,” Rohrbach said. “... It takes so much to put yourself in this position. To battle back and see it through was an incredible moment.”

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Will Miller added 10 points and three steals off the bench for the Black Panthers, who finished the season 16-6.

“We had a good season, but to have a really good season, you have to get to the state tournament,” Cutler said. “Obviously everybody’s pretty disappointed right now, not making that last step.”

Aberdeen Christian 55, Platte-Geddes 43

Aberdeen Christian (18-4): Jackson Isakson 5-10 5-6 19, Ethan Russell 1-4 1-1 3, Malek Wieker 7-10 3-5 21, Brent Ekanger 4-8 2-4 10, Jett Becker 0-3 2-2 2, Andrew Brennan 902 909 9, Kaden Clark 0-2 0-0 0. Team totals: 10-39 13-18 55.

Platte-Geddes (16-6): Jackson Neuman 2-3 0-0 4, Hayes Rabenberg 0-5 1-2 1, Brody Boltjes 1-10 0-0 3, Caden Foxley 5-9 2-5 12, Kelby VanDerWerff 3-14 0-1 7, Wll Miller 4-5 0-0 10, Nate Whalen 3-6 0-0 6, Cade Nachtigal 0-1 0-0 0. Team totals: 18-53 3-8 43.

AC 5 20 36 55

PG 14 23 32 43

3-pointers: AC 8-19 (Isakson 4-6, Wieker 4-5, Russell 0-2, Becker 0-3, Brennan 0-2, Clark 0-1); PG 4-18 (Miller 2-3, VanDerWerff 1-2, Boltjes 1-9, Rabenberg 0-3). Rebounds: AC 28 (Ekanger 9); PG 32 (VanDerWerff 9). Assists: AC 3; PG 4. Blocked shots: AC 3; PG 2. Steals: AC 7; PG 5. Turnovers: AC 11; PG 7. Total fouls: AC 14; PG 15.

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