Prep boys basketball: Russell-Tyler-Ruthton knocks off Cherry in state semifinal
The Tigers finished 4-for-12 from the free throw line in the loss to the Knights.
MINNEAPOLIS — Turnovers and missed free throws spelled doom for No. 4 seed Cherry in a tightly-contested 61-57 defeat at the hands of top-seed Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in the semifinal round of the Class A state tournament on Friday at Target Center.
The Tigers finished the contest with a paltry 33% from the charity stripe on 4-12 shooting and coughed up 18 turnovers, compared to the Knights who finished a nearly-perfect 13-14 from the line with 11 giveaways.
Coach Jordan Christianson said the mistakes will serve as a learning tool this offseason as the team looks to take the next step after having its run end in the semifinals for the second-straight year.
“There’s things we wish we could go back and change about the game, but our mentality all year has been done, next, whether it’s a win or a loss,” Christianson said. “We can’t fixate on this loss. We can remember it, we can get better from it, but we’re not going to sit here and fixate.”
Cherry lost to Spring Grove 68-43 in the third-place game on Saturday morning at Concordia University in St. Paul.
With the season nearing its end, Christianson lauded the team for its togetherness and ability to adjust when needed.
“Their ability to take coaching is unreal,” Christianson. “I’m not always easy on these guys and every time I coach they look them in the eyes and they nod their head and make the adjustment. It’s been a blast for me to coach. It’s just one cohesive unit and they all play for each other and get along.”
Noah Asuma calmed any big-game jitters for the Tigers in the opening seven minutes of play by scoring the team’s first nine points via a trio of made shots from beyond the arc. As a team, the Tigers went on to finish the half 6 of 13 from three and 10 of 23 from the field overall.
The freshman’s sharp shooting guided Cherry to a 9-5 advantage at the first media timeout with RTR slow to find its rhythm offensively on 2-of-10 shooting.
Isaac Asuma quickly followed suit by scoring his first basket of the game out of the break followed moments later by a 3-pointer by Carson Brown to give the Tigers a 14-8 lead.
The Knights, led by senior Aiden Wichmann, remained calm, cool and collected as Cherry got the better of the play early on.
“We came to state last year so that experience helps a lot,” Wichmann said. “Winning is all about staying calm and this team hates to lose so we know what we have to do to win.”
Wichmann and junior Drew Werkman each finished the half with 10 points and were the catalysts for the Knights offense as the team stormed back to tie the game at 16 moments before a Hayden Gravley jumper gave the club its first lead at 18-16.
Before halftime, the two teams swapped leads six times down the stretch before Cherry took a 27-24 advantage into the break with a late 3-pointer by Brown.
After a four-point showing in the first half, Isaac Asuma matched that total less than 40 seconds into the second with a pair of drives to the basket for a quick 4-0 run to give Cherry its largest lead of the game at 34-27.
“I just knew that I had a slow first half. I wasn’t playing my game so I just had to step back, re-think it and just go play my style of play in the second half, and that’s just attacking the rim and finding my teammates for open shots,” Isaac Asuma said.
The momentum generated from the run was quickly spoiled after Isaac Asuma again ran into foul trouble after picking up his third call of the game with just under 13 minutes remaining in the game. Asuma would not return until just over seven minutes left in the game with the Knights in front 42-40.
Within that span, the Knights leaned on Wichmann, who scored 13 of his 23 points in the second half and finished 6-of-6 at the free throw line in the final 18 minutes.
The team’s success at the line has been a constant throughout a postseason run through the Section 3A tournament and into the state tournament.
“We’ve been a veteran team and we’ve got guys who have been able to knock free throws down when they’ve needed to,” Gravely said. “It’s been something that we’ve been fairly consistent with, especially throughout the playoffs.”
The Knights took their final lead of the game at 42-40 and never relinquished it despite Cherry’s best efforts to claw its way back.
After a red-hot in the first half at the three-point line, the Tigers finished the second half 1-8.
Cherry – Isaac Asuma 21, Noah Sundquist 6, Noah Asuma 13, Carson Brown 11, Isaiah Asuma 3, Landon Ruotsalainen 3. Totals 23 4-12 57.
3-point goals -- Noah Asuma 4, Brown 2, Ruotsalainen 1.
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton –Aiden Wichmann 23, Camden Hansen 6, Hayden Gravley 6, Drew Werkman 16, Tucker Haroldson 3, Blake Christianson 7. Totals 22 13-14 61.
3-point goals – Aiden Wichmann 2, Haroldson 1, Christianson 1.