A high school boys basketball game in South Dakota is 32 minutes long. If it were half that, the Custer High School boys basketball team would have had a much better week.
Twice last week the Wildcats played strong first halves only to have the score get away from them in the second half in losses to Red Cloud and Hot Springs. It’s been a recurring theme the past few weeks for the team and a trend head coach Paul Kelley wants to get away from as quickly as possible.
“It’s kind of the same story week in and week out,” he said.
Against Red Cloud last Thursday the Wildcats were outscored 31-11 in the second half in a 66-31 loss.
“We played pretty well in the first half considering they are a very experienced ball club,” Kelley said. “We were down 12 in the third quarter and then before you know it they were up 30. They are so athletic and quick. We just couldn’t hold it together.”
Kelley said the big run by the Crusaders was a product of sloppy play by the Wildcats that led to some easy Crusader fast break scores.
“We forgot what our jobs were and they made us pay for it,” he said.
The Wildcats were led by Reed Ashmore’s 16 points, the only Wildcat to crack double figures. Ashmore also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.
“Reed did a lot of good things. He was feeling it a little bit and hit some shots,” Kelley said. “We just couldn’t sustain the battle.”
It was the same story for the team last Friday evening in the Armory when the Wildcats played the visiting Hot Springs Bison virtually even in the first half before being outscored 32-18 in the second half on the way to a 59-41 loss.
“I really don’t think they’re that much better than us,” Kelley said. “We need to keep doing the little things to be successful. In the second half we weren’t doing them and that came back and bit us.”
Custer held a lead for much of the first quarter with Reese Kelley hitting a corner three-pointer followed by Jace Kelley hitting a three-pointer of his own after the Bison had taken the lead thanks to a Matt Norton steal and layup.
Norton hit a three-pointer of his own late in the first quarter as the Bison regained the lead, but Nolan Patzlaff got Custer within one with a three-pointer of us own. With 2:21 left in the second quarter Patzlaff gave the Wildcats the lead at 20-19 with another three-pointer.
That triple was answered by a Logan Barndt triple for the Bison, and Barndt buried another three-pointer moments later to put Hot Springs up 25-20. Barndt was a thorn in the side of the Wildcats’ side the entire game, scoring 24 points including hitting six three-pointers.
The bison were up 27-20 as time wound down in the first half but Patzlaff made it a four point game at the break when he buried a shot from just inside half court as time expired.
The third quarter started with Jace Kelley hitting for three of his team-high 19 points to cut the Bison lead to two.
Unfortunately for Custer the Bison answered Kelley’s three-pointer with a 16-0 run that blew the game open. The Wildcats didn’t score again until Kelley hit another three-pointer with 45 seconds remaining in the quarter. By that point, the Bison held a 44-29 lead. The Bison lead would sit at 16 to 20 points for the remainder of the game.
Paul Kelley said the Wildcats came out in the second half with a plan to try a defense to limit Barndt’s scoring opportunities but gave up too many offensive rebounds to the Bison. Hot Springs had 41 rebounds in the game to Custer’s 19.
“You just can’t do that. That’s what allowed them to get the big lead,” Kelley said. “We just didn’t finish the possessions and secure the ball.”
Patzlaff was the other Wildcat to score in double digits, with 16 points. No other Wildcat scored more than three.
Kelley pointed to another glaring problem with the Wildcats right now—a complete lack of offense inside the three-point range. The Wildcats made only two baskets inside the arc against the Bison and made only three such shots against Red Cloud.
“We’re not getting anything inside. We have to find a way to get the ball to the basket,” he said. “We try, but we’re not finishing. That’s been the dilemma all season. We’re not finishing, and we’re not getting to the free throw line.”
Kelley said the effort is there from the Wildcats, even if a full 32 minutes of solid play is not.
“It would just be nice to put those 32 minutes together and see where that would take us,” he said. “We’re getting great effort, we just have to do those little things good teams do to win or be successful.”
The Wildcats, 3-13, will play two more games this week, starting Thursday with a 7:30 p.m. game against Spearfish. The Spartans are 5-10 this year but have played primarily a Class AA schedule.
“They have a lot of new kids and their coach is back after being in Mitchell,” Kelley said. “They’ll play hard. That’s what they do.”
Friday the team will take on a Belle Fourche Bronc team that is also struggling this season, sporting a 4-10 record. Tip is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Kelley said the Broncs are a team the Wildcats feel they match up well with.
“It just depends on who wants it more at this stage in the year,” he said.
Belle Fourche, Lead-Deadwood and Custer are all jockeying for improved playoff seeding with virtually the same records.
“It’s a big game, because it’s one that can solidify where we are going into region or if we get an opportunity to move up a little bit,” Kelley said.
Custer 11 12 6 12 —41
HS 15 10 21 13 —59
Custer—Nolan Patzlaff 4-11 4-8 16, Reese Kelley 1-2 0-0 3, Dustyn Fish 1-3 0-0 2, Jace Kelley 6-15 2-3 19, Dominick Milliken 0-0 1-2 1, Reed Ashmore 0-5 0-0 0. Totals: 12-36 7-17 41.
Hot Springs—Morgan Harkless 0-4 1-2 1, Logan Gooder 4-10 1-4 9, Matt Norton 3-5 0-0 7, Alex Bilbruck 0-2 0-0 0, Thane Lockhart 4-8 1-1 10, Kelton Harris 2-6 0-2 4, Logan Barndt 6-13 8-8 24, Tyler Winscot 0-1 0-0 0, Gage Uhlir 2-4 0-2 4. Totals: 21-53 11-19 59.
Three-point goals: Custer 10 (J. Kelley 5, Patzlaff 4, R. Kelley), HS 6 (Barndt 4, Norton, Lockhart). Rebounding: Custer 19 (Patzlaff 5), HS 41 (Gooder 12, Barndt 9). Assists: Custer 9, HS 16 (Lockhart 8). Steals: Custer 1, HS 2. Turnovers: Custer 4, HS 6. Total fouls: Custer 17, HS 12. Fouled out: Ashmore.
Custer 6 14 8 3 —31
RC 16 19 23 8 —66
Custer—Nolan Patzlaff 3-11 0-0 9, Reese Kelley 0-2 0-0 0, Dustyn Fish 0-1 0-0 0, Dathan Elmore 0-1 0-0 0, Jace Kelley 2-10 0-0 5, EJ Gonzalez 0-2 1-1 1, Isaac Powers 0-4 0-00, Kaleb Wragge 0-1 0-0 0, Reed Ashmore 6-10 0-0 16. Totals: 11-42 1-1 31.
Red Cloud—Alejandro Rama 8-12 2-2 21, Riyen Carlow 1-4 1-1 3, Rueben Harvey 0-1 0-0 0, Jesse Jensen 3-6 1-5 7, Rayhan Carlow 0-1 0-0 04, Jeremiah Whalen 1-2 0-0 3, Marshall Gibbons 0-2 0-0 0, Russell Leader Charge 6-7 0-0 12, Beau Donovan 1-1 0-0 3, Manuel Yellow Horse 4-7 0-2 8, Louis Her Many Horses 4-8 0-0 9, Jalen Cross 0-5 0-0 0. Totals: 28-56 4-10 66.
Three-point goals: Custer 8 (Ashmore 4, Patzlaff 3, J. Kelley), RC 6 (Rama 3, Whalen, Donovan, Her Many Horses). Rebounding: Custer 23 (Ashmore 9), RC 40 (Her Many Horses 9). Steals: Custer 7, RC, 7. Assists: Custer 4, RC 7. Turnovers: Custer 12, RC 9. Total fouls: Custer 13, RC 9. Fouled out: none.