It’s often said that offense wins games while defense wins championships…but when a team makes nearly two out of every three shots they take in a title game, odds are pretty good that team’s going to go home with the gold trophy. Such was the case for the Eagles of Southwest Minnesota Christian in the Class 1A state basketball championship game, as they shot 65% from the floor en route to an 81-73 victory over top seed Maranatha Academy.
Dominic Nibbelink led the way for the third-seeded Eagles, scoring 29 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the floor and 9 of 13 from the free throw line. He scored 11 of his 29 points during a 20-6 Eagles run, a run started by a Nibbelink three-point play with 8:13 remaining that tied the game at 58. Southwest Minnesota Christian wouldn’t trail after that three-point play as their hot shooting stretched the lead to as many as 11 points.
Despite the Eagles’ excellent shooting, Maranatha made things interesting in the final two minutes. Trailing by 11, Isaiah Hanson hit a three-pointer to trim the lead to eight, then Maranatha quickly cut the lead to five with 1:10 to go. However, Nibbelink iced the game from the line for the Eagles, draining three of four free throws in the next 30 seconds to start the celebration on the Eagle bench.
Maranatha used a 16-5 run at the end of the first half to take a 37-34 lead into halftime; they pushed the lead to as high as seven early in the second half. However, the torrid shooting from Nibbelink and Leighton Sampson, who had 22 points for the Eagles, helped Southwest Minnesota Christian catch and overtake the Mustangs as they won their fifth state championship and first since 2002.
Nibbelink had seven assists to go along with his 29 points; Sampson helped the Eagles enforce the paint by blocking three shots in addition to his 22 points. Maranatha was led by Isaiah Hanson with 24 points and eight rebounds; Josh Goldschmidt added 16 points, seven boards and four assists.
Southwest Minnesota Christian ended the season with a 30-1 record; Maranatha, who was making their first appearance in a state championship game, ended the year with a 31-2 mark.
In the Class 1A third-place game, Rushford-Peterson defeated Upsala 50-38.