The Harding County boys' basketball was a blur in the second half of a convincing win against New Underwood Saturday.

It seemed like every other play was a fast break layup for the Ranchers.

Harding County used four primary scorers and gave up only 13 second half points on its way to a 74-31 win.

"I think our defensive intensity really picked up after halftime," Rancher coach Jay Wammen said. "We ran kind of a trapping zone in the second half, we got in the passing lanes really well and got a lot of deflections and those 50-50 balls really went our way. We were able to capitalize on those and turn our defense into really big offense."

One of the biggest offensive performers in the second half was Zach Anders, who had 15 points in the third quarter alone after registering six assists in the first half.

He was one of four Harding County players to score in double digits, including Garrett Rolph who had a game high 27 points.

"We just had really good ball movement and good teamwork all over the floor," Rolph said. "It’s nice because maybe Zach has a good night so I don’t have to do as much, having four people who can really work the ball around is really good for the team."

In addition to Anders and Rolph, Camden Hett had 11 and Jake George had 10.

New Underwood was the team, however, that was productive offensively to start the game. Conner Knuppe scored the team's first nine points while finishing with 11, but Harding County was able to get the lead back whenever the Tigers got it and led 17-9 at halftime. 

The Ranchers continued to work on New Underwood and led 34-18 at the half.

Wammen joked that if he were a better coach Harding County would have gone away from its full court pressure earlier considering how the half court trap worked in the second half.

"New Underwood did a lot of good things offensively in the first half, I believe our full court pressure kind of played into their hands and they were to get he ball middle and get some easy shots," he said. "At halftime we wanted to go to a half court system and we ran a different defense so maybe that had a little more to play than in the first half."

It worked well, as New Underwood scored only six points in the third quarter and seven in the fourth.

"We went into the locker room and knew we were ahead by a little bit but we wanted to bury them in the third quarter so we just went out there and did it," Rolph said. "I just trusted the bigger guys like Jake (George) and Jaxson (Klempel) to get the ball to me and once we got going we kind of just rolled."

Harding County scored 29 points in the third and 11 in the fourth.

"Our guys are young ... it’s tough for young kids to keep their mental focus the whole game," Tigers coach Rusty Lytle said. "We put some subs in and they did some good things, it may not look like it from the score but they did some good things for us.

"We’ll bring that back to practice and that will make other guys better. We ran a couple of sets and we actually ran them very well but we ended up throwing the ball away. I saw some good things, and it’s coming. We’re just so young."

In addition to Knuppe's 11, Kolter Clark had 10.

Harding County, 6-6, starts the Little Moreau Conference tournament Thursday while New Underwood, 1-11, hosts Philip Wednesday.

New Underwood girls clamp down defensively

The New Underwood girls set a lofty goal for itself against Harding County Saturday, only allow the Ranchers to score 20 or fewer points.

Although it didn't reach its goal, the Tigers got close. They allowed only 12 points in the second half and won easily 67-29.

"We did make some adjustments, the biggest thing is we thought we were a bit lethargic defensively (in the first half)," New Underwood coach Stacey Finkbeiner said. 

The Tigers gave up 17 points in the first half, but Finkbeiner still called on his team to accomplish its goal, and he said that fired them up.

"At halftime so it was like ‘okay, we have to hold them to three or less,'" he said. "I just thought we moved better, when you play a team that has four or five people on the perimeter, getting to spots is a challenge and I thought we did a better job in the second half of doing that."

Harding County was able to stay with the Tigers for the first half, trailing 19-10 at the end of the first quarter and 36-17 at halftime.

In the second half, a solid defensive performance and too much offensive size is what spelled doom for the Ranchers.

"I just told the girls that you can’t coach size," Harding County coach Ray Ginsbach said. "All I can do is ask the girls to work hard and they did that."

The Ranchers scored just four points in the third and trailed 52-21 with eight minutes to go. In the fourth New Underwood outscored Harding County 15-8.

Jaedyn Finkbeiner led all scorers with 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. 

It was also a big night for Cerington Jones, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

"Coming into the season we knew we had four girls returning from the state tournament team last year and in the first game we lost our point guard (Lexi Ballard) to a knee injury, so that was kind of devastating but the other girls have picked it up," Stacey Finkbeiner said. "We've played a lot of teams that have congested the middle and we've moved Jaedyn outside, she's hit shots and that gives Cerington a lot of space on the inside."

The Ranchers were led by Emily Messmer who had 11.

New Underwood, 11-2, takes on Kadoka Area at home Monday at 6 p.m. Harding County, 3-12, travels to Lemmon Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Contact Geoff Preston at geoffrey.preston@rapidcityjournal.com

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