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Lower Brule edges White River in triple-overtime thriller

Lower Brule’s Brian LaRoche Jr. center, goes up with a shot between White River’s Kendrell Cuevas, left and Dylan Marshall, right, during Friday night’s semifinal game at the South Dakota Class B Boys Basketball Tournament at Wachs Arena. Looking on at far left for the Sioux is Ellwyn Langdeau. Photo by John Davis taken 3/18/2022

This was even better than advertised.

Most fans expected the Lower Brule vs. White River game to be a battle. What transpired was a instant classic that will be likely be talked about for years to come.

Lower Brule moved into the state championship game after an 86-83 triple overtime victory Friday night in the semifinals of the State B Boys’ Basketball Tournament at Wachs Arena.

“What a great game,” said Lower Brule coach Brian LaRoche. “You can’t get better than that.”

Both teams made play after play to keep the contest going. In the end, the Sioux made just a few more to secure the victory.

“Credit Lower Brule. They made plays down the stretch and we didn’t. That’s what it came down to,” said White River coach Eldon Marshall. “It was a great battle. I’m really proud of my kids. We fought to the end and that’s the most important thing.”

The contest was close the entire way and both teams lost a key player in regulation. Keshaume Thigh of Lower Brule fouled out early in the fourth quarter, and White River’s Joe Sayler fouled out late in regulation. However, others stepped up and made the most of their opportunities.

“All year everybody finished in double figures. One goes down the other one picks it up,” LaRoche said. “That’s why we use the whole team and it showed. We trust everybody and let the boys play.”

It was Brian LaRoche Jr. who forced by first overtime by scoring in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.

Lower Brule then surged in front 69-64 in the first extra period. However, White River battled back and eventually tied the game on a three-pointer by Gavin Folkers in the final seconds to force a second overtime.

White River’s Gavin Folkers, center, puts up a three-point shot as Lower Brule’s Gavin Thigh (5) looks on during Friday night’s semifinal game at the South Dakota Class B Boys Basketball Tournament at Wachs Arena. Looking on for the TIgers are Dylan Marshall, right, and Joe Sayler, front far left. Photo by John Davis taken 3/18/2022

The Tigers owned the lead late in the second extra session before Lower Brule’s Gavin Thigh nailed a three-pointer with seconds remaining to tie the score at 77-77 and force a third overtime.

“First of all my teammate called that play out for me on that overtime three-pointer,” Thigh said. “He just called it out, because he said I was hitting when we came out at halftime. I just believed in him, believed in myself and hit it.”

The teams traded points in the final overtime before Lower Brule finally got a bit of separation by scoring on back-to-back possessions for a three-point lead. After Dylan Marshall scored inside, the Tigers fouled Thigh who made a pair of free throws with 11.4 seconds remaining. The Tigers then came up empty on their final possession.

Lower Brule, which made seven of eight free throws in the final overtime, will now get its first chance to play for a state title.

“It’s our school’s third time making it (to the state tournament). It’s kind of unreal though,” said Gavin Thigh of reaching the championship game. “It’s hard to believe. I can’t explain it. I’m just enjoying it.”

Langdeau had 21 points, LaRoche Jr. 20, Gavin Thigh 19 and Keshaume Thigh 11 for the Sioux. Landgeau also hauled down 11 rebounds.

Lower Brule (22-3) will now face defending state champion De Smet in the title game at 7:45 tonight.

Playing in the final game of the season on the biggest stage in Class B is something the Sioux has been working towards.

“Kids trust in the goals. Last year was to make it to the state. This year is to make it to the state championship,” Coach LaRoche said. “That was their goal. It feels good.”

Sayler finished with 23 points, Folkers 22 and Dylan Marshall 21 to lead the Tigers. Kendrell Cuevas added nine points and 11 rebounds.

White River (20-3) will play Potter County for third place at 6 this evening.

The Tigers will have to rebound both physically and emotionally after the heart-breaking marathon defeat in the semifinals.

“It’s tough to see your guys in there crying and hurting. I told them I love them no matter what. There’s no one else I’d want to be hurting with. I’m crying with those guys,” Coach Marshall said. “It hurts, but I told them if this is the worst thing that happens in your life, then you’re pretty darn lucky.”

WHITE RIVER (20-3): Nicolas Marshall 3 1-2 8, Dylan Marshall 7 7-9 21, Joe Sayler 5 12-12 23, Kendrell Cuevas 3 3-5 9, Gavin Folkers 8 0-0 22. Totals 26-56 23-28 83.

LOWER BRULE (22-3): Lane Gray 3 2-7 8, Brian LaRoche 6 6-7 20, Gavin Thigh 5 4-6 19, Keshaume Thigh 5

0-0 11, Trevin McBride 2 0-0 5, Ellwyn Langdeau 8 5-9 21, Quentin McBride Jr. 0 2-2 2. Totals 29-58 19-31 86.

White River 18 32 46 64 70 77 83

Lower Brule 16 31 51 64 70 77 86

3-point field goals – N. Marshall, Sayler, Folkers 6; LaRoche 2, G. Thigh 5, K. Thigh, McBride. Fouled out  – Sayler; K. Thigh. Total fouls – White River 23; Lower Brule 21. Rebounds – White River 40 (Cuevas 11); Lower Brule 30 (Langdeau 11). Turnovers – White River 21; Lower Brule 14. Assists – White River 13 (D. Marshall 9); Lower Brule 14 (LaRoche 4, G. Thigh 4). Steals – White River 5 (D. Marshall 3); Lower Brule 11 (LaRoche 4, G. Thigh 3).

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