Ethan boys drop Class B quarterfinal to Aberdeen Christian as late comeback falls short

Ethan fell behind by as many as 16 in the second half, but dwindled that down to as little as four points in the fourth quarter.

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Ethan's Drake Gustafson steps out of bounds while being defended by Aberdeen Christian's Kaden Clark during a high school boys basketball Class B state quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Aberdeen.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

ABERDEEN — Trailing by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter, Ethan coach Bryce Roth told his team they’d been down by more before.

The Rustlers responded, whittling what grew to be a 16-point lead down to four, but it wasn’t enough, as No. 2 Aberdeen Christian walked away with a 57-47 win in the first round of the Class B boys basketball state tournament Thursday night.

When Ethan fouled intentionally late, the Knights stepped up to the line and knocked down their free throws, connecting on all six tries in the final minute of the game. Jackson Isakson made two and Malek Wieker, who paced the Knights with 15 points, was good on four.

“No self doubt,” Aberdeen Christian head coach Matt Rohrbach said of his squad’s free-throw shooting. “Complete trust in yourself, complete trust in your teammates. The coaching staff has complete trust of everybody.”

After getting fouled on a 3-point try, Riley Endres stepped up to the free-throw line with 47 seconds left and buried all three tires, getting the Rustlers to their closest point in the comeback effort, making it 51-47.


“He’s getting faced guarded the entirety of the game, he never got subbed out once. He comes out and drains three free throws, it’s incredible,” Roth said of his senior guard, who finished with 15 points. “It’s a testament to his character and his will. He has sheer will to play the game of basketball.”

The Knights held Ethan to 15 points in the first half, but during the fourth quarter the Rustlers were able to get out in transition more, leading to fastbreak points, which is what Roth said the game plan was coming in.

“In the fourth quarter, we felt like we’d be the live legs,” Roth said. “We thought we would be able to get that transition offense going if we just kept on it, starting honestly in the first quarter.”

Defensively, the Knights were able to limit Ethan getting into transition in the first half thanks to their good shot selection and activity on the offensive glass, according to Rohrbach.

All told, the Knights limited the Rustlers to 26.1% (6 of 23) in the first half and 33.3% (17 of 51) for the game. Rohrbach credited his team’s defensive positioning for the success at holding Ethan down.

Ethan got three players into double-figure points, led by Riley Endres with 16 points. Kody Klumb tacked on 15 and Drake Gustafson chipped in 10.

Ethan (20-4) moves to the consolation bracket Friday, where it will take on the loser of De Smet versus Viborg-Hurley, while Aberdeen Christian (22-2) will match up with the winner in the semifinals Friday.

“You look at that prize you’ve been dreaming of your whole life and that prize isn’t going to be able to be achieved," Roth said of moving to the consolation bracket. “You start to think about the core tenets of what we preach in the Ethan basketball program. … It doesn’t matter what is exactly on the line when you’re playing a game of basketball, but you know that you have to go out there and play to the absolute best of your abilities.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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