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Boys basketball: Dragons torch Wildcats to win South

Tribune photo by Tom Larson Litchfield’s Riley Pater goes up for a shot past New London-Spicer’s Tyson Gislason in the Section 6AA-South championship game Wednesday in Collegeville. Pater finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds. The Dragons face Melrose on Friday for the Section title and a trip to the Class AA state tournament.

COLLEGEVILLE — Any prospects for a late-game dogfight between Litchfield and New London-Spicer for the Section 6AA South Sub-Section championship vaporized when NLS’ Aaron Ruter blew up his ankle in the second half Wednesday at St. John’s University.

The Dragons held a four-point halftime lead, but Ruter was on fire. He had 14 points at the break, most on four 3-pointers, then tacked on seven more points in the second half.

When he aggravated a high ankle sprain and limped to the Wildcats’ bench, Litchfield took full advantage.

Riley Pater dominated the paint, scoring 25 points, and Zach Whitchurch was as hot as Ruter, hitting 6 of 9 shots and scoring 21 points in the Dragons’ 69-51 victory.

“The key was when Aaron went out,” said Pater, who leads the 23-5 Dragons against 29-1 Melrose for the Section 6AA championship on Friday at St. Cloud State University.

“He was doing a lot for them and we got control after that,” Pater said. “Then we were able to pull away at the end.”

Litchfield will defend its section title against a Dutchmen team which suffered its lone loss this in Litchfield in overtime.

“It will be about defense,” Pater said of the rematch, “and making them defend us. We just have to stay solid.”

Both NLS and Litchfield played that type of ball early. The exchanged the lead six times in the first half and the teams were tied five times.

In 16 first-half minutes, Ruter hit 5 of his 7 shots, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. With Litchfield pressuring — and fouling — Ruter, he went to the free throw line five times and made them all. Then the ankle gave way.

“He’s had ankle issues before and he knew right away that he couldn’t go,” said NLS head coach Chad Schmiesing. “Obviously, that made it tough for us. He sparked us.”

Litchfield’s Zach Kinny finished with 5 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists and Dylan Koll scored 8 points.

NLS’ Joey Dreier finished his career with 10 points and 7 rebounds, but the Dragons’ defense made life difficult for the Wildcats. NLS shot 44 percent in the first half but just 23 points in the second.

Litchfield hit 52 percent in the first half and a solid 57 percent after the break.

“Litchfield shot the ball well,” Schmiesing said. “They’re disciplined and they wore us down.”

“We just kept hanging in,” said Litchfield head coach John Carlson. “(New London-Spicer) was extremely well-prepared. They’re a very good basketball team.”

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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