From the opening tip Friday night, Roosevelt’s boys basketball team loudly and emphatically reinforced its status as heavy favorite for the Class AA state title.
The top-ranked Rough Riders jumped all over No. 2 Brookings in the District 1AA finals, holding the Bobcats scoreless for the first 5:20 of the game to set the stage for a surprisingly lopsided 62-37 victory at the Roosevelt gym.
“We wanted to set the tone early on the defensive end, and our offense follows from that,” said senior guard Tyler Howard, who had 15 points, five assists and five steals to lead Roosevelt (21-1) into the state tournament March 14-16 at the Arena.
“We had a great environment for our last home game, and we wanted to come out strong and take care of business.”
Nate Cole and Chris Phillips each added 10 points for the Riders, who held Brookings (16-6) to 28 percent shooting for the game while forcing 22 turnovers.
Roosevelt coach Lee Taylor called it his team’s best defensive effort of the year, which is notable for a senior-led squad that has been firmly focused on chasing its school’s first state boys title since 2000.
“Most of us have been playing together our whole lives, so the chemistry is there,” said senior guard Jeremiah Clark while watching his teammates cut down the nets to celebrate their district title.
“We knew if we could come out and get aggressive and get that trap going, we’d be in good shape. Getting up and down the court is just our style.”
That made it a long night for Brookings, led by junior guard Tyler Nagy with 10 points. The ESD squad dropped a 60-52 decision at Roosevelt on Feb. 19 but brought a large fan contingent to Sioux Falls on Friday night to try to turn the tide.
But the Bobcats committed 11 turnovers in the first half and struggled to find open shots. They trailed 17-6 after Roosevelt’s Colton Kooima busted a 3-pointer late in the first quarter and found themselves facing a 27-9 deficit midway through the second.
“We couldn’t do anything offensively because of their defensive pressure,” said Brookings coach Travis Engebretson, whose team will host Yankton in a do-or-die regional game Tuesday night.
“Roosevelt is a great team with a great group of athletes, and we couldn’t get anything going. That affected the entire flow of the game for us.”
Brookings tried to claw its way back by pulling to within 32-14 at halftime, but the Riders came storming out again in the third quarter and quickly put the game away.
Things got a little chippy the rest of the way as the Bobcats got frustrated and the Riders kept the heat on. Clark was called for an intentional foul earlier in the game, and Taylor was whistled for his first technical of the year while asking the refs to rein things in.
“Brookings is a physical team and they play hard, so those things are going to happen,” said Taylor, whose team racked up 15 steals. “I’m glad that our kids stayed better composed than I did. The seniors have been wanting me to get (a technical) all year, so I said, ‘There you go.’ But not another one for the rest of year.”
The rest was a formality as Brookings finished with 0-for-11 shooting from 3-point range and never made a serious run.
The Riders will be the No. 1 seed at the state tournament and are firmly focused on not letting Friday’s district championship be the highlight of their season.
“Our ultimate goal was to come out and win a state championship, and we’re three games away,” said Clark. “If we come out aggressive and play like we did tonight, I’d say we have a pretty good chance.”
Zach Kress 1 0-0 2, Braxton Carlson 0 3-4 3, Tyler Nagy 3 4-5 10, Kaleb Vig 1 4-6 6, Zach Page 3 0-0 6, Mikey Daniel 0 0-2 0, Trevor Hornig 1 0-0 2, Konner Beste 1 2-4 4, Seth Moret 1 2-2 4. Totals 11 15-23 37.
Brandon Boggs 3 1-3 7, Lucas Wilber 2 3-3 7, Jeremiah Clark 3 0-0 6, Tyler Howard 5 2-5 15, Nate Cole 2 5-6 10, Trevon Moody 1 0-0 2, Chris Phillips 4 2-3 10, Colton Kooima 1 0-0 3, Josh Kirkwold 0 2-4 2. Totals 21 15-24 62.
Brookings 7 14 21 37
Roosevelt 17 32 46 62
3-point goals – Brk 0, RHS 5 (Howard 3, Kooima, Cole). Rebounds – Brk 27 (Carlson, Vig 7), RHS 31 (Wilber 7). Assists – Brk 4, RHS 15. Steals – Brk 4, RHS 15. Total fouls – 23, RHS 18. Turnovers – Brk 22, RHS 10.