RAPID CITY — Shortly after watching the girls team stun No. 1 Harrisburg in their championship game, the top-seeded O’Gorman boys found themselves on the wrong end of a similarly precarious situation in their finale against No. 7 Aberdeen Central.
But as they have done all season, the Knights stayed the course and battled their way back, gaining control with a dominating third-quarter performance to deny the Golden Eagles their Cinderella finish with a 69-57 win Saturday night at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
O’Gorman is the first AA program to claim both the boys and girls basketball championships since Sioux Falls Roosevelt did it in 2000.
“It hasn’t fully sunk in yet,” senior JP Costello said. “I feel like I have more games to play, but it feels great, especially after falling short in the last two years.”
Fittingly, O’Gorman’s senior trio of Costello, Matt Cartwright and Joey Messler led the team in scoring.
Costello capped a spectacular three-day run with 27 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. The 6-foot-6 forward, who was slowed by injury and illness late in the year, accumulated 69 points on 16 of 37 shooting with 22 rebounds.
“The big difference in the second half was we got the ball inside to JP Costello,” Robey said. “He just had a great night, a great tournament. He’s a great kid.”
“I would have been OK having no points and us winning,” Costello beamed. “I’m just so happy for all my teammates and the team. We’re so close. I’ve never been a part of a team like this. It’s amazing.”
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Class AA state tournaments
Cartwright capped his senior campaign in style, stuffing the statsheet with 14 points, an assist, two blocks and two steals. He also knocked down a couple of 3-pointers to tie Mitch Begeman’s single-season record (68).
Messler finished with 13 points and six rebounds, while teammate Louis Peterson added six assists for the Knights, who shot 43 percent from the field as a team.
“It’s phenomenal, the year they’ve had,” Robey said of his seniors. “Matt and JP, they should be first team all-state. Matt, quite honestly, had the best season of anyone in the history of O’Gorman. Just a great kid. He should be in discussion for Player of the Year, Mr. Basketball, all that stuff.”
For Aberdeen Central, Cole Bergan led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Christian Goetz notched 13 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal.
The Golden Eagles finished the game shooting 41 percent from the field, but they went just 9-for-27 in the second half.
Brian Hank Haenchen (@Brian_Haenchen) March 19, 2017
Aberdeen Central hit the ground running in the first half, shooting 48 percent from the field with six 3-pointers to take a 33-29 lead into the break.
“We just told our guys at halftime, let’s not panic,” Robey said. “We’ve been in scenarios like this. The good thing about our team, and I think one of the ways we’ve matured throughout the season is, we tried to handle that adversity.”
“We didn’t make any adjustments going into the third quarter,” Cartwright said. “We just played better defense, rebounded the ball and just stayed together.”
The two teams exchanged punches to start the fourth, with O’Gorman trailing 40-39 with 4:23 left in the third. But then the law firm of Messler, Cartwright and Costello took over, accounting for their team’s next 10 points.
Not only was the Knights’ offense firing on all cylinders, but its defense was starting to suffocate the Golden Eagles, who did not score again until a minute into the fourth quarter and did not hit another field goal until the 4:15 mark.
“That was a lot of fun,” Costello laughed. “I don’t even know how to describe that.”
Aberdeen Central mounted one final charge late in the fourth, with Cole Bergan capping a 9-2 run with a 3-pointer that trimmed the score to 62-55 with 51 seconds remaining, but that rally was extinguished 20 seconds later by Louis Peterson, who stole the ball from Bergan near midcourt, then knocked down a couple of free throws to essentially close the deal for O’Gorman.
“It was a great feeling (when Peterson got the steal),” Robey said. “That was the icing right there. That was the nail in the coffin.”
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen .