South Central boys hand Potter County first loss of yearABERDEEN — The South Central boys’ basketball team isn’t taking its trip to the Class B state tournament for granted.
By: Brooke Cersosimo, The Daily Republic
ABERDEEN — The South Central boys’ basketball team isn’t taking its trip to the Class B state tournament for granted.
The fifth-seeded Cougars knocked off fourth-seeded Potter County 64-54 in the first round of the tournament Thursday at the Barnett Center on the Northern State University campus in Aberdeen.
South Central (22-2) takes on top-seeded White River at 6 p.m. today in the semifinal round. The Battlers face eighth-seeded Langford Area at noon today.
After trailing by two at the half, the Cougars had to play better against Potter County’s press.
“We needed to handle their press, and in the first half we turned the ball over 10 times that we didn’t want,” South Central head coach Clayton Steele said. “That allowed them to come back after being down 6-2, get ahead and keep the lead at the half. We told our kids that if we just take care of the basketball, we could beat them.”
Senior forward Tyler Frank took Steele’s advice and scored the third quarter’s first five points, putting the Cougars ahead 27-24. South Central never trailed from this point on.
The Cougars adjusted to Potter County’s press and outscored the Battlers, who won the battle on the boards 24-22, in the third quarter 16-10.
“All year long we’ve tried to work on being full-court pressure, and I think we probably gave up more transition-run layups tonight than we have all season combined,” Potter County head coach Bryce Hall, whose team suffered its first loss of the season. “This the third time where we lost the third quarter this season. Things worked against us today that usually didn’t this season that got us to where we’re at.
“But again, we were never about that perfect season. We were about getting to this point, and we competed hard.”
Near the end of the third, South Central, which was 21-of-36 for 58 percent from the field, built a seven-point lead with 1:35 left to play in the quarter after a 6-0 run. But Potter County (22-1) fought back to come within one at 43-42 with 5:40 left in the game.
The Cougars responded with eight consecutive points — triggered by a basket by senior guard Josh Tuttle. South Central’s key free-throw shooting in the final minutes secured the victory, keeping the run for a state championship alive.
“Our coaches always have us shoot free throws after practice, especially when we’re tired, and I think our hard work just really paid off for us,” South Central senior guard Dakota Votaw said.
South Central was 18-of-22 for 82 percent from the foul line, and Steele said it’s something the kids have worked at.
“We executed our offense and some kids finished at the end, and that’s what winning is all about,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, we weren’t hitting free throws. It was nice to see our kids knock them down. We’ve improved all year and this is the right time to peak.”
The Cougars were led in scoring by junior center Sam Hazen with a game-high 19 points. Frank scored 18 points and a game-high eight rebounds and Votaw added 12 points in the win.
“Every one of these kids has all had big parts in this team. We’re not a one-man show and we showed that,” Steele said.
The Battlers, who were 19-of-46 for 41 percent from the field, had four players score in double figures. Junior guard Kole Hawkinson scored a team-high 12 points, junior guard Tanner Heuer and junior forward Chayce hall each had 11 and senior forward Tate Nafziger scored 10.