MANKATO — The United South Central boys basketball team has been comfortable playing from behind all season long.
Friday night at Bresnan Arena, the Rebels ran out of late-game heroics and dropped a hard-fought 69-61 decision to Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City in the Section 2A championship game.
“This is a group that doesn’t get real rattled,” USC coach Robert Stevermer said. “We’ve had games where we’ve been down double digits in the second half and they just don’t lose their composure.
“It was the kind of game you expected where both teams came out and played extremely hard. We gave up a little too much inside and they really stepped up and played an outstanding second half.”
USC (23-5) converted 12 of 13 foul shots on its way to taking a 34-31 halftime lead. Junior forward Riley Kloos tallied 10 of his 14 points to pace the Rebels while junior guard Nate Pederson put through eight of his team-best 18 points. Sophomore Grant Becher’s three-point play put the Rebels in front 32-25 before sophomore post Colton Minnick’s inside hoop and free throw helped ACGC gain some momentum.
After Kloos’ three-point play off a three-shot flurry gave USC a 37-31 advantage, 6-foot-4 freshman Gabriel Eisenbacher’s putback triggered a 14-2 surge. The rally produced a 45-39 Falcons’ lead on senior forward David Kinzler’s left baseline 3-pointer with 13:19 to go.
Pederson’s three-point play off a down-the-lane drive made it 45-42 before Minnick’s strong inside move and Kinzler’s transition drive put ACGC ahead 49-42.
“I think the difference was our inside game,” Falcons’ coach Terry Miller said. “Our shots weren’t going down in the second half so we started playing through Colton Minnick and he was a beast down there.
That huge shot came after Grant Becher’s top-of-the-key 3-pointer ended a miserable 3-point shooting performance and pulled the Rebels within 57-54 with 3:21 left. Senior guard Taylor Larson, who led the Falcons with 21 points, nailed a left-side 3-pointer and finished off a layup to push the margin to 62-54.