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Walker-Hackensack-Ackley drops state tournament opener to Southwest Minnesota Christian

Walker-Hackensack-Akeley’s Caleb Ginos (3) shoots over Southwest Minnesota Christian’s Gabe Vander Veen to hit a buzzer-beater at the end of the first half of Thursday’s Class 1A quarterfinal game at Williams Arena. Joe Brown | Forum News Service

MINNEAPOLIS – In their first trip to the boys state basketball tournament, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley couldn’t unseat Southwest Minnesota Christian.

The Eagles topped the Wolves 68-38 in their their Class A quarterfinal matchup Thursday night at Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

The Wolves (27-3) won the tip in their debut tournament appearance, but the game belonged to the Eagles (28-1).

Southwest Minnesota Christian took a 40-17 lead into halftime on the strength of the team’s 58 percent accuracy from the field and Leighton Sampson’s 15 points.

However, W-H-A refused to concede the game and mounted a 9-2 run early in the second half.

But the Eagles’ lead proved to be too much for the Wolves to overcome. The Wolves turned the ball over 24 times, leading to 32 points by the Eagles.

Sampson finished with a team- and game-high 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field for Southwest Christian. Dominic Nibbelink hit 7-of-10 for 16 points and Klint Knutson scored 10 more.

Chris Duff was the leading scorer for W-H-A with 13 points. Anthony Fisher had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Southwest Christian will take on undefeated Upsala in the semifinals at 2 p.m. today at Target Center.

Upsala, now 30-0, defeated Battle Lake 71-60 in their quarterfinal matchup.

Rushford-Peterson will take on top-seeded Maranatha Christian Academy in the other semifinal at noon today.

Rushford-Peterson (27-3) led Lakeview Christian from start to finish in their quarterfinal Thursday, and led by as many as 24 points on its way to a 72-54 win.

For Maranatha Christian (30-1), accurate field goal shooting and a quick defense were the keys their 61-44 victory over Mountain Lake Area.

Five players scored in double figures for the Mustangs as the team shot 52.9 percent from the field for the game.

Class 3A

Last year’s Class 3A champion DeLaSalle will get a chance to defend its title Saturday night against undefeated Austin in their 6 p.m. title game at the Target Center.

DeLaSalle (29-1) completely dominated the No. 8-ranked and No. 5-seeded St. Paul Johnson in their 86-59 semifinal victory.

Four DeLaSalle starters finished in double figures, led by junior forward Reid Travis, whose double-double of 30 points and 12 rebounds were game highs.

For Austin (30-0), it was a battle against Marshall in their semifinal before the Packers prevailed 68-65 in overtime.

Junior guard Zach Wessels led the Packers with 20 points and also had six assists and four steals. Senior forward Tom Aase added 16 points and junior guard Ajuda Nywesh came off the bench to add a dozen, mostly critical free throws at key points in the game.