Boys basketball: R-P still a force to deal with
There's always a temptation to compare teams from one year to the next.
But in the case of the Rushford-Peterson boys basketball, that's neither fair nor is there much of a comparison. The 2015-16 Trojans were arguably the best bunch that coach Tom Vix has coached, and he's directed three state champions, including last year's.
R-P graduated all of its starters from that state title juggernaut, including a pack of sizzling shooters.
But there is this: R-P is still directed by that same wise coach, Vix, and the Trojans still play that same trapping, tenacious defense they often have under him.
Put those two things together, and toss in the athleticism of junior Noah Carlson, and you have the best reasons that No. 2 seed R-P was able to escape No. 3 Houston on Tuesday, winning 57-38.
R-P isn't nearly R-P of last year. But it is still R-P.
"We've got tradition and the kids grow up with the program, so they know what we're doing," said Vix, whose Trojans moved to 20-8 overall and will play No. 1 seed Spring Grove at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Section 1A East finals. "They work at it. Plus, they don't want to be that one (Rushford-Peterson) team that doesn't achieve."
The Trojans leaned heavily on their defense and that famous 1-3-1 alignment in the second half. That came after Houston had hung around in the first half behind some hot 3-point shooting, and R-P's inability to hit shots. The Hurricanes trailed just 22-18 at intermission.
But then Carlson — who was moved to the top of that 1-3-1 pressure defense — got very busy. He also got busy scoring, and finished the contest with a career-high 27 points, many of them after Houston turnovers.
"When you put Noah at the top of that pressure (defense), that takes things up a notch," Vix said with a knowing smile.
The speedy and high-leaping Carlson led a defense that forced 15 second-half Houston turnovers. R-P finished with 17 steals for the game, Carlson with five, Luke Rasmussen and Noah Dahl each with four and Jacob Paulson with three.
R-P went from tied at 25-all just into the second half, to on top 44-30 with 6:45 left in regulation. That margin came immediately after R-P freshman Landon Skalet drilled his fourth 3-pointer of the game.
Skalet has played most of the season on the R-P B-squad. But Tuesday he offered some much-needed 3-point shooting.
Skalet finished with 14 points, the only other Trojan to hit double digits.
Micah Schutte had 11 points for Houston. Jeremiah Johnson had 10.
Rushford-Peterson 57, Houston 38
Austin Peplinski 6 P, 2 3-PT; Micah Schutte 11 P, 3 3-PT; Trevor Lundberg 4 P; Jeremiah Johnson 10 P; James Loken 5 P.
Noah Carlson 27 P, 1 3-PT; Luke Rasmussen 6 P, 1 3-PT; Noah Dahl 3 P; Matt Culhane 2 P; Landon Skalet 14 P, 4 3-PT; Jacob Paulson 5 P.
Halftime:RP 22, HOU 18.
Free throws:HOU 7-14, RP 13-22.
Three-point goals:HOU 5, RP 6.