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Second half dooms MVP in SoDak 16 loss to Groton Area

No. 6 Tigers pull away after halftime to knock out No. 11 Titans and advance to Class A state tournament

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Mount Vernon/Plankinton's Jordan Stoltz (34) shoots a one-handed hook shot over a pair of Groton Area defenders during the first half of a SoDak 16 boys basketball contest on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at Redfield Junior-Senior High School.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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REDFIELD, S.D. — After leading by five at halftime, No. 6 Groton Area (20-3) left No. 11 Mount Vernon/Plankinton (16-7) behind, growing their second-half advantage to as much as 23 points in a 63-48 SoDak 16 victory in front of a packed gym at Redfield Junior-Senior High School.

“We just turned the ball over too much (in the second half),” said MVP coach Eric Denning. “It wasn’t really the pressure that turned it over, it was our half-court stuff. We got a little impatient early on offense and that’s been a little problem for us for a lot of the year. We just had too many empty possessions.”

Back-and-forth play marked the entire first half, with neither team getting out to a lead of more than two possessions. After eight minutes, MVP led 10-8, but a strong back-half of the second half pushed Groton Area ahead 25-20 at the break.

Then, after halftime, the Tigers made their move.

A layup by Tate Larson, a 10-second violation and traditional three-point play Larson in quick succession made it 32-24 early in the period, as the lead reached 12 points.

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“We just weren’t getting shots at all,” Denning said. “I know during one stretch in that third quarter we had four turnovers in a row. That bumped [the deficit] from five to 12 and then you’re playing catch-up the rest of the time. That’s kind of what broke us.”

A 3-pointer by MVP’s Zach Baker that cut the Tiger lead back under 10 was quickly answered by a triple on the other end, with Groton Area going up 41-28 after three quarters. The Tigers continued to inflate their advantage in the final frame, going up 58-35 as the lead reached its peak.

“We didn’t really change anything,” Denning said. “Once we got down double-digits we kind of felt like we had to go man[-to-man] and see where that would take us. Then they extended it on us a little after that. … We didn’t play our best game tonight.”

Larson paced Groton Area with 17 points, while Jacob Zak and Lane Tietz added 14 and 12 points, respectively. Wyatt Hearnen and Kaden Kurtz each had seven points for the Tigers.

For the Titans, Reed Rus dropped in 17 points and Jordan Stoltz had 10. Baker and Mason Hetland contributed eight and six points, respectively for MVP, which ends its season 16-7.

“We came to compete this year and really got after it,” Denning said. “I’m proud to be where we’re at and to get here. It’s disappointing to lose, obviously, but if you’d have told me at the beginning of the year we’d win 16 games and be playing for a trip to the state tournament, I’d have definitely taken it.”

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at ldierks@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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