With his team ahead by two points with 0.1 second left on the Target Center clock, Zach Huisken stood at the free throw line, fittingly the last one on his Southwest Minnesota Christian team to touch the ball.
Thanks to his efforts at the end of a tight Class 1A semifinal game with Rushford-Peterson, it didn’t matter whether he made it.
His layup shot kissed off the backboard and in with 61 seconds remaining to give the Eagles a two-point lead. The 6-9 center’s block on the ensuing Rushford-Peterson possession was a major bonus on the way to a 46-44 victory.
“All of his plays are pretty sweet,” coach Jamie Pap said. “Zach just played a heck of a ballgame. He might not always score 25, 30 points a ballgame but he makes huge plays.”
Pap played with Southwest Minnesota Christian when it won the first of four Class 1A championships from 1999-2002. The Eagles are back in a title game for the first time since.
Andrew Top’s 11 points paced the No. 2 seed Eagles (28-1), who got balanced scoring with seven apiece from Huisken (who also had 13 rebounds), Klint Knutson and Dominic Nibbelink.
The teams combined for just six points through the first six minutes of the second half before a track meet broke out.
Nibbelink and Trent Vix of No. 3 Rushford-Peterson (25-6) traded three-point baskets 20 seconds apart to ignite both crowds with 4:10 to play.
It was back and forth from there, with Huisken providing the biggest plays in the clutch.
“He’s got the skills to play at the guard position,” Top said. “He pretty much takes care of things for us.”
-- Brian Stensaas, Star Tribune
Huisken's performance on the boards helped the Eagles control the rebounding battle. He manned the middle, grabbing thirteen boards and scoring seven hard-fought points. He had three rejections in the game, including one in the final minute that thwarted one of Rushford-Peterson's final scoring threats.
Thompson had the best overall performance of the game, scoring twenty points and grabbing nine rebounds in the close defeat. His solid shooting (8-16) helped the Trojans stay in the game throughout, with his last three-point attempt missing as time expired.
The Eagles forward pitched in 11 points, leading his team in scoring in a game where points were hard to come by. He also tallied four rebounds and two steals to round out a solid stat line.
-- Alec Kinsky, MN Basketball Hub Staff