Sioux Falls Christian has long played in the shadows of its much larger city rivals. The Chargers have never won a state title in boys basketball, and they’ve toiled in Class A since its inception having never reached the title game. They finished third in 1997, but the headlines always stayed with the larger Sioux Falls schools.
But SFC (5-0) has clearly put its Class AA city rivals on notice by defeating both Sioux Falls Washington and O’Gorman in consecutive games. In Tuesday’s 59-44 victory over the Knights, the Class A third-ranked Chargers made a big statement by controlling the game from almost the start.
“Those are both huge wins,” said SFC coach Mike Schouten of the wins over Washington and O’Gorman. “We are very aware of what we’ve done. Washington and O’Gorman are some of the top teams in AA so we’re very proud of pulling those games off. But these kids have earned it. They’ve been the work and this is a nice reward.”
But controlling the game from the start didn’t really take much. The opening quarter was sloppy, littered with turnovers and missed free throws by both teams. The Chargers were 0-for-5 from the line in the first quarter and didn’t hit a perimeter basket until the second quarter. They led early, but O’Gorman held the edge after one quarter 9-6.
The Knights (4-3) built the lead to 17-11 midway through the second quarter before SFC caught fire. The Chargers went on a 13-2 to finish out the half, capped by a long three-pointer at the buzzer by Koln Oppold to give SFC a 24-19 advantage at the break.
“That was huge and gave a lot of momentum and confidence that maybe we could compete with these guys going into the second half,” Schouten said. “The third quarter we just came out with a lot of energy and played really well.”
SFC’s defense was suffocating to start the second half, limiting O’Gorman to just one field goal in the first six minutes of the third quarter. The Chargers are limiting opponents to just 47.6 points per game in their first five games this season.
“I think we do,” Schouten said when asked if SFC has what it takes to make a run at the school’s first state title. “After these last two games, I think it tells everybody that we’re legit and that we have a shot at it. But it’s pretty early in the year. We really don’t know quite where we’re at, but the guys have really been focused in practice the last few days and I like where we’re at.”
Chad Barkema led the Chargers with 24 points and nine rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. He went 7-for-8 from the free throw line in the final one minutes and 48 seconds to help seal the win.
“We were getting a little antsy in the fourth quarter and coach just calmed us down,” Barkema said. “We just needed to get some good shots down the stretch.”
Despite getting down double-digits early in the fourth quarter, O’Gorman didn’t quit. The Knights got it 46-38 with 4:39 to play on a J.P. Costello basket, but they were dreadful from the free throw line in the fourth. O’Gorman was in the bonus with 7:05 to play, but missed the front end of three consecutive one-plus-the-penalty free throw attempts. The Knights were just 4-for-9 from the line in the quarter.
Jimmy Burma led the Knights with 12 points and Matt Cartwright at seven rebounds.
Jimmy Burma 3 6-8 12, Chandler Schaelbauer 0 0-0 0, Antonio Casiello 1 4-5 7, Luke Fritsch 0 0-0 0, Logan Harmelink 2 0-0 4, Ethan French 0 2-3 2, Charley Illg 1 0-0 2, Matt Cartwright 3 0-1 7, Ben Lauer 2 0-1 4, JP Costello 3 0-2 6. Totals: 15 12-20 44.
Koln Oppold 1 0-0 3, Lincoln Unruh 1 2-2 5, Chad Barkema 7 9-15 24, Lee Vande Kamp 0 0-0 0, Austin Schreur 2 1-4 5, Jackson Schipper 2 5-8 9, Dejay Fykstra 3 2-2 8, Josh Fligge 1 1-2 3, Keegan Van Egdom 1 0-0 2. Totls: 18 20-33 59.
O’Gorman 9 19 32 44
SFC 6 24 38 59
3-point goals – OG 2 (Casiello, Cartwright), SFC 3 (Oppold, Unruh, Barkema). Rebounds – OG 30 (Cartwright 7), SFC 38 (Barkema 9). Assists – OG 2 (Casiello, Lauer), SFC 9 (Van Egdom 3). Turnovers – OG 9, SFC 8. Total fouls – OG 27, SFC 23. Fouled Out – OG (Fritsch, Costello)