With five seconds remaining in last Saturday’s consolation championship game of the Lakota Nation Invitational, the Custer High School girls basketball team trailed St. Francis 51-50. Not only did the team have to try to get the ball the length of the court in five seconds, but it also had to try to get off a good shot in that amount of time.
Will a wide-open layup work?
The Wildcats executed the final game of the play to perfection when Mallory Delmont delivered a perfect pass near mid-court to Sadie Glade, who then dribbled the ball toward the basket. As she did so a St. Francis defender left Kellen Kortemeyer under the basket and advanced to defend Glade, creating a passing angle for Glade to whip the ball to Kortemeyer, who laid the ball in as time expired. The Wildcats bench and crowd went into a frenzy, and the girls were handed the consolation trophy and Lakota Nation jackets after concluding the tournament with a 3-1 record and placing ninth overall.
“We finally played a complete ball game,” head coach Mick Patzlaff said of the consolation championship game. “I thought we showed plenty of improvement throughout the tournament. We got better at handling pressure and showed remarkable improvement defensively. We still have a long way to go before we can compete with the top teams on our schedule, but we are a lot further along now than we were a week ago.”
The game was a back-and-forth affair throughout, with an eight-point first half margin by the Warriors being the largest lead of the game by either team.
Custer took an early Lead after Glade hit a three-pointer to put Custer up 7-6, but St. Francis answered that with a 9-0 run that saw the Warriors grab a 15-9 lead with 10:30 remaining in the first half.
A Matlida Anderson three-pointer gave the Warriors a seven point lead at 18-11 not long after, but Custer continued to chip away at the lead despite being without the services of Kortemeyer for long stretches of the game as she was limited by both a leg injury suffered earlier in he tournament and foul trouble. Kortemeyer, who was the only Wildcat named to the All-Tournament team, picked up her second foul at the 14:13 mark of the first half and her third foul with 6:30 remaining in the first half.
A Josey Wahlstrom drive for a basket cut the Warrior lead to four later in the half, which was followed by a baseline drive and basket by Alice Sedlacek to cut the Warrior lead to two at 23-21. Jazlea Arcoren then hit a three-pointer for St. Francis to extend the lead to five, but that was answered by a Glade three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to make the score 26-24 at the half.
Glade had a strong all-around game for the Wildcats, leading the team with 20 points while adding five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“It was her first real break-out game offensively,” Patzlaff said.
St. Francis continued to maintain a three- to five-point lead through the first 10 minutes of the second half before Custer finally took the lead for the first time since early in the game via a Kortemeyer basket at the 9:54 mark.
The Wildcats led by six two minutes later after Sedlacek followed a Glade steal and layup with an elbow jumper, but the Warriors answered back to tie the game thanks to an Anderson three-pointer and a bank shot two from a seemingly impossible angle by Keyanee Metcalf. There were seven ties or lead changes in the second half of the game.
Things began to appear bleak for Custer with around three minutes left in the game when they turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions, followed by two Anderson free throws that made the score 51-48 with under a minute remaining.
The Wildcats righted the ship on the next possession, however, when Glade hit a tough shot to cut the Warrior lead to one with 22 seconds remaining. After failing to get a steal on the Warriors possession the Wildcats fouled, and missed free throws by the Warriors allowed the Wildcats to call a timeout to set up the dramatic final play.
“I am very proud of our young team. We play hard and we play together,” Patzlaff said. “We are getting positive contributions from a lot of different players.”
Kelsey Herman had eight points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats in the game, while Kortemeyer had eight rebounds. Wahlstrom had seven rebounds of her own, but most importantly, Patzlaff said, had no turnovers from her point guard position.
The girls got into the consolation title game with a 35-26 semifinal win over Marty Indian School on Friday of the tournament, where Patzlaff said the team did a better job of taking care of the ball than it had the two previous days of the tournament.
Herman had a double-double in the game, with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Both of those marks led the team.
“Marty’s inside game, which propelled them to victory the night before, was essentially neutralized by our half-court man and zone defense,” Patzlaff said. “We played really hard, which was why we won.”
The girls started the consolation bracket Thursday of last week by defeating Crazy Horse 52-38, led by another nice all-around game from Glade including 14 points, seven assists, four rebounds and five steals.
Kortemeyer had 15 points on six of seven shooting in the game, while Herman grabbed eight more rebounds.
“Although we still turned the ball over way too often, we were able to keep Crazy Horse off balance for most of the game with our press,” Patzlaff said.
As well as the tournament ended for the Wildcats it started just as badly, as the ’Cats were run off the floor last Wedensday by eventual tournament champion Todd County, 77-35. The Wildcats had no answer for the active Falcon press, which forced Custer into 33 turnovers.
“We were completely overwhelmed,” Patzlaff said. “We couldn’t execute on offense and gave up a lot of layups in transition. Our young team was not ready for that level of intensity.”
Kortemeyer led the team with 11 points and six rebounds in the loss, while Glade added 10 points.
The Wildcats enter the Christmas break with a record of 4-2. They will next play Dec. 28-29 at the Chadron, Neb., Holiday Tournament.
The Wildcats open the tournament by playing the host team Chadron, a team that Patzlaff said he hasn’t seen film on as of yet, but in the past has been a half court team with decent size that likes to play deliberately.
“We’ll see what happens if we try to speed them up by getting after them in the full court,” he said.