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Howard wins ‘grind-it-out battle’ against Aberdeen Christian: Tigers edge Knights at Hanson Classic

Aslesen and Spader combine for 40 points

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Howard's Jace Sifore shoots over the top of Aberdeen Christian's Brent Ekanger during a game on Saturday during the Hanson Classic at the Corn Palace.

Howard coach Nick Koepsell called a timeout midway through the third quarter and challenged some of his players. The Tigers responded.

Class B No. 3 Howard overcame a five-point third quarter deficit, received 40 points from Tisyn Spader and Sam Aslesen in a 52-47 win over Aberdeen Christian at the Hanson Classic.

The Tigers (10-1) trailed 31-26 with 4 1/2 minutes left and that’s when Koepsell called a timeout.

“I challenged a couple of them,” Koepsell said. “I thought a couple of our big guys were getting soft around the rim. I wanted to see how they would respond and they responded exactly how I thought they would, which was great to see.”

Aslesen, who finished with 13 points, responded down the stretch. The 6-foot-7 forward had just two points at halftime and didn’t hit a second-half field goal until 3:38 left in the third quarter.

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“He told me just to start taking control of the offensive end and challenged me to start shooting some jumpers,” Aslesen said. “Once I started doing that, I felt we kind of started pulling away and getting back into the game.”

Spader and Aslesen, who are both committed to Dakota Wesleyan, powered the Tigers down the stretch. They combined for 14 of Howard’s last 20 points.

“We trusted in what our coach said and ran the plays that he wanted to run,” Spader said. “We knew we would get open looks if we ran through our offense just like that.”

The Knights (9-3) still had one last shot to tie or win the game. After Spader split a pair of free throws for a 50-47 advantage with 13 seconds left, Aberdeen Christian’s Malek Wieker misfired on a 3-pointer and Howard regained possession. Spader, who finished 10 of 12 at the foul line, then converted two free throws to reach the final margin. Howard finished 19 of 23 at the free-throw line, while Aberdeen Christian went 3 of 4.

It capped off a physical and evenly-matched contest that featured six ties and six lead changes. Howard edged Aberdeen Christian in the rebounding category, 23-22.

“There aren’t many teams in the state that can matchup with us physically and they have big strong kids down in the post and it was a grind-it-out battle and a possession game,” Koepsell said. “I was really proud of the guys for the way they pulled it out in the end.”

Jace Sifore added eight points and four rebounds for Howard. Aberdeen Christian’s Jett Becker netted a team-high 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds before leaving with a foot injury.

Howard plays Elkton-Lake Benton on Jan. 26 in Elkton. Aberdeen Christian (9-2) hosts Herreid/Selby Area on Jan. 26.

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Howard 52, Aberdeen Christian 47

Howard (10-1): Tisyn Spader 7-11 10-12 27, Brayden Hinker 0-4 2-2 2, Sam Aslesen 3-8 7-8 13, Ryder Erickson 1-2 0-0 2, Jace Sifore 4-10 1-1 8, Luke Koepsell 0-1 0-0 0, Samuel Callies 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-36 19-23 52.

Aberdeen Christian (9-2): Jackson Isakson 2-6 0-0 5, Ethan Russell 1-6 2-2 5, Malek Wieker 4-13 0-0 9, Brent Ekanger 2-3 1-2 5, Jett Becker 9-12 0-0 23, Andrew Brennan 0-0 0-0 0, Kaden Clark 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-41 3-4 47.

H 11 23 35 52

AC 14 22 33 47

3-point field goals: H 3-8 (Spader 3-5, Hinker 0-1, Aslesen 0-1, Koepsell 0-1); AC 8-28 (Isakson 1-3, Russell 1-5, Wieker 1-10, Ekanger 0-1, Becker 5-8, Clark 0-1). Rebounds: H 23 (Spader 6); AC 22 (Becker 8). Steals: H 5 (Spader 2); AC 3. Assists: H 9 (Spader 5); AC 12 (Isakson 3, Wieker 3). Turnovers: H 7; AC 13. Total fouls: H 9; AC 18.

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