Rebels can’t dig out of a hole in playoff loss to Trojans

Published 7:44 pm Wednesday, March 9, 2022

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ROCHESTER – The No. 7 seeded Southland boys basketball team didn’t have enough firepower to overcome a second half push by No. 2 Rushford-Peterson as the Trojans eliminated the Rebels by a score of 53-42 in a Section 1A quarterfinal in Mayo Civic Auditorium Wednesday. 

Malachi Bunke hit a pair of clutch three-pointers as he ignited during a 12-0 run that put the Trojans up 46-33 with 4:25 left in the game. The Rebels were able to get no closer than eight the rest of the way. 

Bunke finished with 18 points.

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Eli Wolff put up 19 points and seven rebounds in his final game for the Rebels and Harrison Hanna had nine points with a sprained ankle.

“Harrison didn’t practice all week and he was gutting it out tonight,” Southland head coach Scott Koenigs said. “His strength is his quickness and his ankle was still in tough shape tonight.”

The Trojans (22-4 overall) led 35-23 early in the second half, but the Rebels clawed their way back into it when Hanna scored six points during an 8-0 Southland run that brought the Rebels within 35-31 with 10:34 left.

Southland sophomore Andrew Timm knocked down a three-pointer to put Southland up 15-14 with 5:16 left in the half, but R-P took a nine-point lead after it responded with a 10-0 surge that saw Justin Ruberg convert a pair of three-point plays.

“It’s tough to get behind against Rushford, because they’re so methodical,” Koenigs said. “They pass and they pass and they slow it down. You almost have to get a lead on them and we didn’t shoot that well right away.”

Southland (18-7 overall) was able to stay within 24-20 at the half as Wolff scored on a put-back with 55 seconds left. Hanna had pulled Southland within 24-18 when he finished a three-point play for his first points of the night with 2:33 left in the half. 

Wolff finished his Southland career just five points shy of 1,000 career points and Hanna was 50 points short of the milestone. Both players lost a bulk of games last year due to a shortened COVID-19 season. Southland will also graduate Brendan Kennedy, Connor Edland and Isaac Mullenbach.

“The best way you can describe those guys is they were reliable,” Koenigs said. “They could score and they could take care of the ball. Connor and Ike came to practice every day, they worked hard and they always had a smile on their face. All five of those guys will be missed tremendously.”

Southland 20 22  –  42

Rushford-Peterson 24 29  –  53

Southland scoring: Eli Wolff, 19; Harrison Hanna, 9; Andrew Timm, 6; Brendan Kennedy, 3; Nick Edland, 2; free throws: 66 percent (6-for-9); rebounds: 24 (Wolff, 7); turnovers: 8