MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — er.
The senior guard from Southwest Minnesota Christian scored 18 of his 29 points in the final 10 minutes to lead the Eagles over Maranatha Christian Academy 81-73 Saturday in the Class A state title game.
A year after a poor shooting performance in a championship-game loss to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Nibbelink went 9 for 12 from the floor and keyed a game-turning run in the second half to lead the Eagles to their fifth state championship in school history.
“It couldn’t have happened at a better game — the state championship,” Nibbelink said. “That’s what every kid dreams of, is having his best game, and I’m happy it was this game.”
Leighton Sampson added 22 points for the third-seeded Eagles (30-1).
Isaiah Hanson led Maranatha with 24 points. The Mustangs lost in their first-ever state title game appearance.
“You’re still feeling the disappointment a little bit, but certainly I’m not disappointed in our team or our kids for how hard they played,” Mustangs coach Jeffrey Wall said. “They played with all their heart and that’s all you can ask in the championship game.”
The Eagles led by as many as eight in the first half thanks mostly to Sampson’s strong inside play on both ends of the floor. Sampson scored 12 first-half points and had a couple of impressive blocks that brought the Southwest Minnesota Christian crowd to its feet.
But top-seeded Maranatha Christian (31-2) outscored the Eagles 16-5 over the final six minutes of the half to take a three-point lead at halftime. Hanson had seven of his 16 first-half points during that spurt.
The Mustangs defense keyed in on Sampson to start the second half and led by as many as seven before Nibbelink took over.
“There was a TV timeout at that point and I just said, ‘Look, you guys, they’re packing it in on Sampson. Somebody is going to have to step it up,'” coach Jamie Pap said. “I kind of stared right at Dom in the eyes, and I didn’t say it had to be him, but he knew what I was getting at there.”
The Eagles trailed by three in the second half before Nibbelink hit a 3-pointer, a three-point play and a jumper that gave his team the lead for good.
The teams traded baskets for the next few minutes. Then the Eagles used a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach.
“We just got a couple of spurts where we couldn’t keep it together,” Wall said.
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