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Michael Savaloja / Forum News Service, Published February 25 2014

Strasburg-Zeeland eliminates South Border at Region 3 tournament

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – It’s stories like the one that unfolded at the Jamestown Civic Center on Tuesday that makes Class B basketball what it is.

He hadn’t scored a single point all night, but with the game on the line, Strasburg-Zeeland senior Seth Aberle wasn’t about to let his team down during the semifinal round of the North Dakota Class B, Region 3 boys basketball tournament.

Clinging to a 55-53 lead with 16 seconds left against South Border, Aberle buried four free throws in the those final seconds to send the Clippers to the championship game by defeating the Mustangs 59-54.

Strasburg-Zeeland will meet Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to decide who’ll represent Region 3 at this year’s state Class B tournament in Grand Forks.

“I was just thinking I’ve gotta put these through, gotta send our team to the win,” Aberle said. “It was a big game … I had to step up.”

The first one of the four was the most nerve-wracking, being the front end of a bonus with his team up by just two. But the 5-foot-10 guard calmly sank them both, as well as a pair of double-bonus shots with the Clippers leading 57-54 with 3 ticks left on the clock.

“It’s just wonderful for a kid like that. You don’t know how hard that kid busts his butt every day in practice,” Strasburg-Zeeland coach Brent Kleinsasser said. “He drives 26 miles a day to get to practice by himself. I’m just happy for him.”

The Mustangs and the Clippers have quite the history over the past two seasons, playing each other for the eighth time in that span on Monday night, with the Clippers now winning six of those meetings. But it was revenge of sorts for the Clippers, who lost this very same game to the Mustangs one year ago in double-overtime, 63-54.

The last time they met up was in a semifinal game of the District 6 tournament on Feb. 15 in Linton, which the Clippers also narrowly won 48-43.

“You really just focus on the fundamentals, because that’s what it comes down to,” said South Border coach Robbie Lukens on facing a team so many times. “They executed the fundamentals better than us today.”

Both teams came out of the gate firing, combining to go 8 of 10 from 3-point range in the first period. The Clippers’ Brody Nieuwsma drained three of them and scored 10 of his game-high 16 points to help the Clippers lead 20-18 to start the second.

Nieuwsma then passed the torch to senior guard Scotti Scherr, who promptly buried 3 of 3 of his 3-point attempts in the second, as the Clippers held firm 33-30 at the half. Scherr scored 15 points and went 5 of 8 from long range, helping Strasburg-Zeeland shoot a blistering 52 percent in the opening 16 minutes.

The Mustangs were able to keep pace with three 3-pointers and 11 points from 6-foot-5 sophomore Hunter Pinke. But Pinke, guarded by 5-foot-10 sophomore Jacob Eberle, was held to just two points over the entire second half.

“He’s still growing and maturing as a player. He jammed his finger a little bit, and he was having trouble shooting the ball,” Lukens said of Pinke. “It swelled up like a grapefruit, and we had trouble getting him the ball in the post.”

SB 18 30 41 54

SZ 20 33 45 59

SB: Jacobson 16, Pinke 13, Knoll 13, Rueb 6, Kretschmar 6.

SZ: Nieuwsma 16, Scherr 15, Kramer 14, Eberle 10, Aberle 4.

Savaloja writes for The Jamestown Sun