ROCHESTER, Minn. — The Rushford-Peterson High School boys basketball team is on its way to the Section 1A championship game after it avenged a regular season loss to Kingsland, defeating the Knights 56-43 in a section semifinal on Saturday at the Mayo Civic Auditorium.
The Trojans will meet Spring Grove in the section championship at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at the Mayo Civic Auditorium. R-P defeated Spring Grove 64-57 during the regular season.
As happy as R-P was to reach the section final, the moment was made all the sweeter by beating the team it had previously lost to.
“Payback, you know,” R-P coach Tom Vix said. “That was one of the ones we felt bad about. We had a 10-point lead down there and we played a terrible second half. We got out-rebounded 38-20. But we competed on the glass today. I don’t think they beat us on the glass today.”
It was a completely different story the second time around.
The Trojans controlled the paint as 6-foot-4 Ben Ansell and 6-foot-2 Jacob Paulson created mismatches with Kingsland’s towering post players. And on the perimeter they contained sharp-shooting guard Zach Bubany, holding him to nine points.
“All week we were told to get out on Bubany, he’s a great player and we’ve always known that,” Paulson said. “The first time he killed us and we watched them a couple of nights ago we watched him and he was on fire. Late in the game, we went triangle on two to make sure he didn’t get hot on us.”
Up against Kingsland 6-foot-8 post Ian Messner, the Trojans knew they had to change up their offensive approach down low the second time around. This time, they attacked him from the baseline up, rather than the free throw line down. This made it a little more difficult for Messner to identify Ansell and occupied him defensively so he couldn’t impact the shooters.
“I think that bothered him,” Vix said. “He had a harder time finding Ben. From the top he could see him coming, where from the bottom he didn’t know where he was.”
The strategy worked as Ansell and Paulson utilized their agility down low to open each other up for easy basket after easy basket. Ansell finished with a team-high 24 points, while Paulson had 11.
“We tried to go to Jacob a lot,” Vix said. “And Jacob could either wheel or pass and he cause trouble. He was a mismatch for their post.”
After Kingsland opened the scoring with a Matthew Woods make underneath, the Trojans went on a 7-0 run over the next seven minutes. And they never trailed again.
The Trojans were happy to grind it out early, playing an aggressive 2-3 zone defense paired with a deliberate and patient offense, happy to pass the ball around and maintain possession.
“There were times when we were patient on offense, but there were times where we tried to force it which kind of hurt us,” Paulson said. “But I think we worked together on the team and we’re always looking for someone else to shoot. We’re very unselfish.”