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De Smet returns to title game with semifinal win over Battlers

De Smet’s Kalen Garry, center, tries to get to the basket as Potter County’s Seth Sharp (13) and Drake Bassett (34) defend during Friday night’s semi-final game at the South Dakota Class B Boys Basketball Tournament at Wachs Arena. In the background at far left is the Bulldogs’ Kadyn Fast. Photo by John Davis taken 3/18/2022

Potter County never really found its offensive rhythm, and top-seeded and reigning state champion De Smet took full advantage.

The Bulldogs began the game with a 7-0 run and never looked back en route to a 67-45 win over the Battlers in the semifinals of the State B Boys’ Basketball Tournament Friday night at Wachs Arena.

“(De Smet) got us extended, and we stayed on the perimeter,” said Potter County coach Bryce Hall. “We didn’t get the ball moving enough, and they got us turned over because we were dribbling too much but not going anywhere. That’s what they do. They’re a heck of a balanced team, and they’ve got great defenders across the board.”

De Smet extended that hot start to as many as 21 points in the first half led primarily by senior standout Kalen Garry.

Potter County was able to chip away just ahead of the half, cutting it to 11 at the break, but again found offensive effectiveness hard to come by to begin the third quarter.

“We got it down to 11,” Hall said. “We were down 21, got it back to 11. Why? Because we were attacking the rim and creating some stuff inside.”

Despite that late first-half push from the Battlers, De Smet settled in to begin the second half.

“That was big for us,” said De Smet coach Jeff Gruenhagen. “We put some points on the board right away.”

Garry finished the night with 18 points for De Smet, but was far from the lone offensive focus for the Bulldogs. Tory Holland added 17, and 6-foot-9 junior Damon Wilkinson finished with 20 points, 12 of which came in the second half. 

“Kalen is a great player and he makes us go,” Gruenhagen said. “He draws a lot of defense. When the double teams come, he’s such a willing passer. Damon this year has just been great for us. He’s opened up the floor.”

Wilkinson exerted his presence particularly in the third quarter, where he scored 10 of his 20 total points.

Potter County’s Alex Tanner, top, lands on De Smet’s Damon Wilkinson, center, as Wilkinson stopped before going to the basket and caught Tanner in the air during Friday night’s semi-final game at the South Dakota Class B Boys Basketball Tournament at Wachs Arena. Looking on are the Battlers’s Logan Decker, far left and Cooper Logan, back far right. Tanner was whistled for a foul and no one was injured on the play. Photo by John Davis taken 3/18/2022

“We’ve got Kalen and Rett (Osthus),” Wilkinson said. “(Teams) can only guard two of us, so they stopped Kalen and they stopped Rett, and I was open for the feed.”

Cooper Logan finished with 21 points for Potter County, largely in the second half after being held to just five in the first. Grant Luikens had 12 points and 11 boards as well for the Battlers.

Potter County will face White River in the third place game on Saturday, while De Smet moves on to the championship game against Lower Brule with a chance to defend its 2021 title.

“It’s exciting,” Wilkinson said of a return trip to the title game. “It’s what we look forward to all year, but we’re still taking every game 1-0. We’ll take this game 1-0. That’s how we work.”

POTTER COUNTY (23-2): Cooper Logan 9 1-3 21, Seth Sharp 2 3-4 7, Grant Luikens 4 4-7 12, Drake Bassett 1 1-4 3, Alex Tanner 1 0-0 2. Totals 17-56 9-19 45.

De SMET (24-1): Tory Holland 5 4-5 17, Damon Wilkinson 7 5-7 20, Rett Osthus 2 0-1 5, Kalen Garry 6 5-9 18, Kadyn Fast 2 1-2 5, Trace Van Regenmorter 1 0-0 2. Totals 23-54 15-24  67.

Potter County 6 20 32 45

De Smet 22 31 47 67

3-point field goals – Logan 2; Holland 3, Wilkinson, Osthus, Garry. Fouled out – Sharp. Total fouls – Potter County 20; De Smet 15. Rebounds – Potter County 36 (Luikens 11, Logan 9); De Smet 42 (Holland 12, Wilkinson 9, Garry 8). Turnovers – Potter County 12; De Smet 12. Assists – Potter County 3; De Smet 13 (Garry 7). Steals – Potter County 5; De Smet 6.

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