No. 7 RSM uses fast start to win boys basketball district final

Thursday, February 23, 2023
(Photo By Charlie Hildebrand) RSM’s Ryan Willman puts up a shot in the middle of South O’Brien defense in Tuesday’s district final win. He finished with nine points, eight assists and two blocked shots.

SIOUX CENTER — Something had to be said at halftime to get Remsen St. Mary’s back to dominant scoring mode.

Outside shooters Alex Schroeder and Cael Ortmann combined for 15 first-quarter points and four of the Hawks’ five 3-point baskets in a 26-2 rout to begin the game. South O’Brien responded by scoring on its first six second-quarter possessions and pulled within 35-24 at halftime.

Seventh-ranked Remsen St. Mary’s burst out of the locker room to score on its first five third-quarter possessions. Jaxon Bunkers paced a balanced offense with 18 points during a 68-51 Class 1A District 1 final Tuesday night.

“One of the biggest reasons … I could give credit to (South O’Brien), but Collin Homan went out with two fouls in the first quarter,” said Bunkers. “The second quarter, it wasn’t as easy to get the ball to him, so we had to hit tougher shots. Offensively for them, they started hitting more shots. That’s how the game goes sometimes.”

“You knew there was going to be a run,” said Remsen St. Mary’s co-head coach Justin Ruden. “(South O’Brien) amped up. They extended their 2-3 zone and it slowed us down. We got in little bit less of an attack mode with that comfortable lead. I think for us, it was just get that intensity back, not settle in and waste time. The boys came out and executed, whether it was a set play or playing basic basketball.”

Collin Homan tallied 15 points for Remsen St. Mary’s, which will take a 21-2 record into Saturday night’s Class 1A Substate 1 final at Le Mars Bulldog Competition Gym against War Eagle Conference rival Gehlen Catholic (20-5), which escaped with a 79-77 thriller over No. 10 Newell-Fonda.

Like the Jays, the Hawks had four double-digit scorers in the district final. Schroeder made four 3-point baskets (three in the first quarter) while finishing with 12 points. Ortmann added 11 points while Ryan Willman ended with nine points, eight assists and two blocked shots.

Homan, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, scored RSM’s first two third-quarter baskets during a 12-5 run in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the second half. Consecutive threes from Ortmann and Schroeder, followed by another inside Homan basket gave the Hawks a 47-29 lead.

Bunkers entered with a team-leading 15.7 scoring average, yet was held to six points after three quarters. Bunkers, who has averaged 18.3 points during a stretch of eight straight double-digit scoring efforts, tallied 10 of his team’s 12 first fourth-quarter points. Bunkers ended with five rebounds and seven assists.

“My teammates brought it right away, so I didn’t need to shoot right away,” said Bunkers. “They did it for me. The time came when they started guarding my teammates more in the second half and they got me the open looks. That got me more points in the second half.”

Boston Riedemann finished with 13 points for South O’Brien (16-8), a program that has experienced 15 straight winning seasons. Ben Woodall added 12.

Ortmann finished with six rebounds, four assists and two steals for Remsen St. Mary’s, which will eye its seventh consecutive Class 1A state tournament berth Saturday night.

The way the son of co-head coach Scott Ruden feels, it’s a “blessing” to have balanced scoring. Bunkers’ added offense like this makes it harder for the Hawks to defend.

“I think (South O’Brien) tried to go box-on-one with Jaxon in the first quarter and we knew that was probably going to come up, some sort of junk defense,” said Ruden. “What it comes down to, we weren’t afraid because we have scorers other than Jaxon. There’s other guys who can score at any time. Those guys were ready tonight.”

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