SIOUX FALLS -- Elk Point-Jefferson's historic run at the school's first boys state basketball championship hit a roadblock in the second half Friday night.
After the Huskies trailed just 31-27 at halftime, Sioux Falls Christian went on a 9-0 run to start the third quarter, breaking the game open late in the final stanza to earn a 75-51 victory in the South Dakota Class A semifinals in Sioux Falls.
Sioux Falls Christian moves on to face top-ranked Dakota Valley in the championship game at 7:45 p.m. Saturday. Dakota Valley, the defending champions, beat Hamlin 77-63.
Elk Point-Jefferson, making just its third trip to the state tournament, will play for third place in the consolation game at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Huskies finished seventh in their other two appearances in 2004 and 2010. (Prior to consolidating with Jefferson, Elk Point was the Class B state runner-up in 1978.)
People are also reading…
In the locker room after the game, EP-J head coach Jake Otkin stressed to his disappointed players what a historically-successful season they accomplished.
"At the end of the day, they wanted to play for a state title and they didn't get that opportunity," Otkin said. "But they've done everything they can and they've put our program in a position to be successful going forward... and we couldn't be any prouder of these guys."
Senior forward Easton Kempf topped the Huskies in scoring with 16 points and junior guard Garrett Merkley added 14.
Senior guard Devon Schmitz, who hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the Huskies' 53-50 win over St. Thomas More in the quarterfinals Thursday, finished with five points Friday night.
After catching the inbounds pass at half court, Schmitz dribbled and then launched a shot from well beyond the arch as the horn sounded. The shot, which set off a wild celebration by the Huskies' players and fans at Denny Sanford Premier Center, was the No. 1 play in the Top 10 Plays of the Day on ESPN's Sportscenter Friday morning.
"I think a lot of people probably thought that we'd come down from that high, but we went out and gave obviously one of the best teams in the state a run for their money," Otkin said. "I know that score looks like a 20-point game, but if anyone was in that gym, they know that that game was a lot closer than the final score. These guys went after it and they played their hearts out and they gave it everything they had and I think it shows that they didn't let last night affect them. They just came out and went hard and we're extremely proud of them for that."
Sioux Falls Christian handed EP-J one of its five regular season losses, 69-51, on Dec. 16 in the second game of the year. The two Dakota XII Conference rivals traded baskets in a tight first quarter Friday. Evan Fornia's bucket in the paint put EP-J ahead 14-13 with 40 seconds left and Jakob Scarmon's fast-break layup 20 seconds later gave the Huskies a 16-13 lead at the end of the period.
A three-pointer by Cole Snyder gave the Chargers their first lead of the second quarter, 21-19, with 5:08 left. Sioux Falls Christian's advantage later grew to six points, but Kempf's shot in the lane pulled the Huskies to within four at halftime.
Sioux Falls Christian went on a 9-0 run to start the second half, taking a double-digit, 40-27, lead after back-to-back three-pointers by Cole Snyder and Britton Mulder. Back-to-back baskets by Griffen Goodbary and Tayton Snyder put the Chargers up 55-39 at the end of the third quarter.
The Huskies cut the lead to 55-43 on consecutive baskets by Alex Scarmon and Jakob Scarmon to start the fourth period. Easton Kempf's jumper in the paint pulled EP-J to within 10, 57-47, 5;29 to go in the game. But that was the closest the Huskies would come the rest of the way.
Four Sioux Falls Christian players scored in double digits, led by Ethan Bruns' 20 points. The Chargers shot 45.3% from the field, including a blistering 54.6% in the second half. From three-point range, the Chargers were 9-of-21 from three-point range overall, but 71.4% in the second half, hitting 5-of-7 shots.
"They're a great shooting team. If we leave guys open, they're gonna hit shots," Otkin said.
The Huskies finished just 31.5% from the field, on 17-of-54 shooting, and 5-of-20 from three-point range for 25%. Merkley was 4-of-7 from beyond the arch, including three to start the game.
"It was a game of runs," Otkin said. "They just hit a bigger run that we had. But overall you can't say anything better about our guys. They went out and battled. They didn't let down. They didn't roll over and die for these guys."