No. 10 RSM returns to substate game by beating Newell-Fonda
SIOUX CITY — The Class 1A No. 10 ranked Remsen St. Mary’s boys basketball team will be heading back to the substate final game as they seek to extend their string of four consecutive trips to the state tournament. The Hawks came away with a 61-41 win over Newell-Fonda to keep their season alive in the district final on Tuesday at Sioux City East’s gym.
“It feels great,” RSM senior Blaine Harpenau said. “We knew coming into today it was going to be a tough game. Newell’s a heck of a team and their defense is relentless, so we knew it was going to be battle. We just knew we had to keep our composure and we came out and we did that and we’re able to move on to a substate final again.”
While Newell-Fonda showed a full-court defense most of the night, it was the defense on the other side of the court which turned out to be more effective.
The RSM defense, which held South O’Brien to just eight points in the second half the game prior, was able to find a way to slow down a galloping Mustangs offense which entered the contest averaging over 72 points per contest which was the sixth most in all classes and the third best in Class 1A this season. The 41 points scored was 13 fewer than their previous season low this season.
“We told the boys that they played probably one of their best defensive games all year,” RSM co-Head Coach Justin Ruden said. “They average about 72 points per game. We took away their driving and their quickness. They’re good shooters so when they drive and kick out they hit those open shots. I was a little worried because of their quickness and our guys being able to stay man-to-man and they did a great job of walling up, keeping their hands off and keeping them out of the paint and then forcing them to do stuff which made them uncomfortable.”
The Mustangs were able to get a couple of quick threes from Jaron Vanderhoff and Tanner Gerke to lead off the game with a 6-0 lead, but the team would get just two more triples the rest of the contest.
RSM finally got on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter with a bucket from Jaxon Bunkers followed by two free throws for the sophomore, but the team’s leading scorer for the season at 13.1 points per game added just two more the rest of the night. The team instead turned to four others who finished the game in double digits and would keep the team right around their scoring average of 62 points per game.
Blaine Harpenau capped off the team’s 7-0 run with a 3-pointer to give the Hawks their first lead. He said that shot seemed to break the ice for him and the rest of the team.
“At the end of the first they were up and into the second we started to hit our stride,” Harpenau said. “We started to knock down shots and that was huge for us and it carried over to the second half. We kept burying our shots and that was huge in a game like this. We just kept on adding on to our lead and that was big.”
Harpenau finished with a season-high 18 points, surpassing his previous best of 17 points which came in the season opener against MMCRU. He hadn’t reached double digits in any of his previous three games.
“I’ve been struggling lately so I knew tonight our team would need me and I had to step up,” Harpenau said. “The guys around me, they all gave me confidence to knock down shots and especially when you have teammates knocking down shots during the game, too. Everyone was just hitting tonight and it was just huge for us and it just built confidence for each other. It was like it was contagious. We just kept on hitting.”
Newell-Fonda scored a pair of buckets to take a 10-7 lead into the second quarter, but the Hawks used an 11-0 run in the midst of the second quarter to pull in front and they would not relinquish the lead.
Austin Jensen capitalized on an old-fashioned three point play to start the scoring rally, part of his 11 points in the game. Levi Waldschmitt got a layup to give the Hawks the lead and he followed with a 3-pointer as he also ended the game with 11 points. The third player to score 11 points in the game for the team was Carter Schorg and he capped off the run with a 3-pointer of his own. RSM did not make another shot from the perimeter the rest of the game, but instead worked to the foul line in the second half.
Schorg and Harpenau each had three point plays in the second half to stretch the lead out and the team went a perfect 10-of-10 at the charity stripe after the intermission which included a good chunk of the team’s points on a 10-0 run in the final four minutes to end the game.
Gerke led the Mustangs with 14 points while Carter Sievers was the team’s other player in double figures with 12 points as they conclude the season with a 17-6 record.
RSM (21-3) advances to Saturday’s substate final where they will play rival Gehlen Catholic (23-1) at Le Mars Community. Gehlen won both meetings this season by scores of 62-46 and 68-60, but the second game wasn’t decided until an overtime period had been played.
“I think we’ll be ready, the boys will be ready,” Ruden said. “We’ve been in this situation. I’m glad they have an opportunity to get there, get to the substate game. It’s one game, leave it all on the line, to get to Wells Fargo Arena.”