A Jace Kelley triple-double and some in-their-shorts defense sparked by Nolan Patzlaff were the catalyst to the Custer High School boys basketball team’s 81-60 win over Hemingford, Neb., last Saturday in the consolation championship game of the Chadron (Neb.) Rotary Club’s George Watson Holiday Classic. The games of the tournament were played at the Chicoine Center on the campus of Chadron State College.
Kelley scored a game-high 20 points, pulled down 14 rebounds and dished out 11 assists, while head coach Paul Kelley said Patzlaff’s tenacious defense after a tie game of 18-18 at the end of the first quarter lit the fuse for Custer to take charge in the game.
“He picked up the intensity in the second quarter and it lit a fire under everybody,” he said.
Patzlaff was no slouch on the offensive end himself, as he scored 15 points, the second of four Wildcats to crack double figures. Brody Martinez scored 11 points on five of eight shooting, while Daniel Sedlacek added 10 points while making all four of his shot attempts.
“It was good to see Daniel get out and get things going,” Kelley said. “EJ (Gonzalez) had a good defensive game and led us to some easy baskets. It was a total team effort.”
Thirteen Wildcats scored in the game. Kelley said the Wildcats were able to play at a higher tempo against the Bobcats. Custer hit eight three-pointers in the game and had only four turnovers.
“The offense was really clicking,” he said.
The same could not be said about the Wildcats’ game last Friday evening against Chadron in the opening round of the tournament, however.
Pick your poor-shooting cliche: couldn’t hit sand had they fallen off a camel; couldn’t have hit water had they fallen out of a boat; couldn’t throw it in the ocean from the shore. All apply for the Wildcats in a 51-38 loss that saw Custer shoot only 25 percent from the field, including a miserable 4-31 (13 percent) from three-point range.
“It was a lack of confidence in our shooting. They may have shot it a lot, but nobody wanted to shoot it,” Kelley said. “You could see it in their body language and facial expressions.”
Kelley had said he wanted to see his team take fewer three-pointers and attack the basket more than it had during the Lakota Nation Invitational last month in Rapid City, but that task was made considerably more difficult by the presence of 6-9 Pat Rust inside for Chadron.
“They played a 1-3-1 zone that limited us from getting inside,” Kelley said. “We didn’t do a very good job of that.”
Kelley did praise his team’s own defense effort, saying it kept the team in the game while it struggled mightily on offense.
“When the shots aren’t falling it’s harder and harder to play solid defense,” he said. “We got a little discouraged, and they were able to pull away in the second half.”
Points were hard to come by for both teams early. The score was just 5-5 at the end of the first quarter. Chadron widened the margin to 18-12 in the second quarter with the help of two baskets in the final two minutes by Chadron leading scorer Colton Olson, who finished with 17 points.
The Cardinals widened the difference to 29-17 with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter, but the Wildcats tallied the final eight points in the period to trim Chadron’s lead to only four going into the last stanza.
Chadron got the first basket in the fourth, but a free throw and a three-pointer by Dustyn Fish cut Chadron’s lead to 31-29 a minute later.
That’s about the time the Cardinals, who had struggled with their shooting through the first three quarters, finally warmed up. They tallied 10 points in the next three minutes to take a 41-33 lead and were ahead by at least that margin the rest of the way.
After seven games on the road, the Wildcats, 4-3, will make their home debut Thursday evening against Hill City. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip.
The young Rangers are in rebuilding mode, but still have a couple of strong players in Noah Krull and center Taylor Edwards who have posed problems for the Wildcats in the past.
“It’s always kind of a big game because of how close we are,” Kelley said. “We’re excited because it’s our first home game.”
Saturday the team hits the road again for a trip to Sturgis, where they will tangle with an undefeated Sturgis squad that features the high-scoring senior guard tandem of Ryan Garland and Cedric Stabber.
“We have to go up there and play well and get some things going offensively,” Kelley said. “We still have to hang our hat on defense. If we’re going to be successful in conference, we have to keep improving on both sides of the ball.”
This story was contributed to by Con Marshall, information services officer at Chadron State College.
Custer 18 29 19 15 81
Hem 18 16 8 18 —60
Custer—Daniel Sedlacek 4-4 2-4 10, Gunner Prior 1-1 0-0 2, Nolan Patzlaff 6-14 0-0 15, Dustyn Fish 1-3 0-0 3, Dathan Elmore 0-1 1-4 1, Jace Kelley 8-16 0-0 20, EJ Gonzalez 1-1 0-0 2, Gage Tennyson 1-1 0-0 2, Isaac Powers 3-4 0-0 6, Grant Sullivan 2-3 0-0 4, Kaleb Wragge 0-0 2-2 2, Tristen Schelske 0-2 0-0 0, Brody Martinez 5-8 1-1 11, AJ Kortemeyer 1-2 1-2 3. Totals: 33-60 7-13 81.
Three-point goals: Custer 8 (Kelley 4, Patzlaff 3, Fish). Rebounding: Custer 45 (Kelley 14). Steals: Custer 5. Assists: Custer 22 (Kelley 11, Patzlaff 5). Turnovers: Custer 4. Total fouls: Custer 21. Fouled out: none.
Custer 5 7 13 13 —38
Chad 5 13 16 17 —51
Custer—Daniel Sedlacek 0-1 1-2 1, Nolan Patzlaff 5-13 0-0 12, Dustyn Fish 1-6 1-2 4, Jace Kelley 2-22 2-2 7, Isaac Powers 0-1 0-0 0, Grant Sullivan 1-2 2-2 4, Brody Martinez 4-7 2-6 10. AJ Kortemeyer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 13-53 8-14 38.
Three-point goals: Custer 4 (Patzlaff 2, Fish, Kelley). Rebounding: Custer 30 (Martinez 9). Steals: Custer 2. Assists: Custer 9. Turnovers: Custer 8. Total fouls: Custer 19. Fouled out: Fish.