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De Smet returns to State B title contest

DeSmet’s Damon Wilkinson, far left, puts back a rebound over Viborg-Hurley’s Gradee Sherman (12) during their semi-final game at the South Dakota Class B Tournament Friday in Wachs Arena in Aberdeen. photo by John Davis taken 3/19/2021

The top-seeded De Smet Bulldogs are back in the State B championship game.

De Smet, which lost in the 2019 final, ground out a win over Viborg-Hurley 56-44 in a physical semifinal matchup during the Class B State Boys’ Basketball Tournament Friday night at Wachs Arena.

Both teams struggled from the field to open the game as the first points of the contest did not come until a layup from Grant Mikkelson put Viborg-Hurley on the board after more than two minutes had elapsed in the first quarter.

The Cougars’ controlled the game early, propelled by three-pointers from Eli Boomgarden, Hayden Gilbert and Blake Schroedermeier.

De Smet weathered the Cougar storm when head coach Jeff Gruenhagen brought his 6-foot-7 sophomore Damon Wilkinson off the bench. Wilkinson recorded 11 of his 14 total points in the first half when he shot 5-of-5 from the field.

“We had a shoot-around today and my teammates told me I was going to have to come in and be the spark,” said Wilkinson.

By commanding the glass in the second quarter, the Bulldogs took a 27-25 lead into the locker room.

“I just told them at halftime that we weathered that storm and now in the third quarter we should come out, settle in and just go to work the way we play,” said Gruenhagen.

De Smet played with their usual offensive swagger on the offensive end in the second half, led by its anchorman Kalen Garry. The junior scored 18 of his 24 total points in the second half, including a contested three-pointer at the end of the third quarter to take a 40-31 lead into the final frame.

Wilkinson continued to flourish in his role as the rebounding maestro, finishing with a team-high 11 rebounds.

“We came into the game thinking ‘box out, box out, box out,’ ” said Wilkinson. The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Cougars 40-28.

Garry provided the dagger with a three-pointer that banked off the center of the backboard to make it 50-
35, the largest lead of the game. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer could not help but smile while trotting back on defense, a mixture of laughter in response to the unlikely bank shot and the joy of returning to the state championship game.

“We’re not done yet though, I know that,” said Garry. “It feels great to get the win, but we’ve got another game and none of us are satisfied, yet.”

De Smet will face the seventh-seeded and upset-minded Aberdeen Christian Knights in the State B championship game tonight at 7:45 from Wachs Arena, which is less than two miles from the Knights’ home court.

Gradee Sherman topped the Cougars with 14 points.

Viborg-Hurley will look to end the tournament on a high note when it takes on Dell Rapids St. Mary in the third-place game at 5 p.m.

VIBORG-HURLEY (18-6): Carter Gust 0 1-2 1, Hayden Gilbert 3 2-5 9, Eli Boomgarden 3 0-0 7, Gradee Sherman 6 2-6 14, Grant Mikkelson 3 1-1 8, Angel Johnson 1 0-0 2, Blake Schroedermeier 1 0-0 3. Totals 17 6-14 44.

De SMET (24-1): Ethan McCune 2 0-0 4. Tory Holland 1 0-0 2, Rett Osthus 1 0-0 3, Kalen Garry 9 2-3 24, Cody Cavanaugh 2 5-8 9, Damon Wilkinson 6 2-5 14. Totals 21 9-16 56.

Viborg-Hurley 10 25 31 44

De Smet 8 27 40 56
3-point field goals – Gilbert, Boomgarden, Mikkelson, Schroedermeier; Othus, Garry 4. Total fouls – Viborg-Hurley 17; De Smet 12. Rebounds – Viborg-Hurley 28; De Smet 40 (Wilkinson 11); Assists – Viborg-Hurley 11; De Smet 11 (Osthus 7); Steals – Viborg-Hurley 5; De Smet 4.

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