HAGEN: Platte-Geddes’ win recalls early memory for CutlerWhen Frank Cutler moved to Platte and took over the boys’ basketball program, the first team he coached in 1989-90 qualified for the state tournament.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
When Frank Cutler moved to Platte and took over the boys’ basketball program, the first team he coached in 1989-90 qualified for the state tournament.
Today, Cutler coaches the consolidation of Platte-Geddes, but at that time each town had its own team, and Platte was a Class A state entrant.
Like this year at state, Platte went into the 1989-90 tournament as the eighth seed, facing a top-seeded, undefeated team in the first round at Rapid City. Cutler’s squad lost a heartbreaker by five points to longtime coach Larry Luitjens and the Custer Wildcats to get knocked into the consolation bracket.
“We played very well against them, but we just couldn’t pull it out at the end,” said Cutler, who has 373 career wins and is now in his 24th year of coaching in Platte. “Custer was undefeated and number-one ranked, and they ended up winning the state tournament and being undefeated that season.”
This year is Cutler’s 10th state tournament appearance as the coach of Platte or Platte-Geddes. In 2008 and 2009, the team was in back-to-back state championship games, winning the title in 2008, which was also the first year of the consolidation.
This year, after the Black Panthers defeated McCook Central/Montrose in the region championship game, Cutler and his team knew they would hold the eighth seed at the state tournament. Their first-round game was against top-seeded, unbeaten Clark/Willow Lake Thursday in Rapid City.
“Last week, our team bus driver mentioned it to me that a long time ago we had another number one team on the ropes, but we just couldn’t quite finish it,” Cutler said, referring to the Custer loss in 1989-90. “He said, ‘Why don’t we do it this time?’ ”
The same year Cutler took over in Platte was the same year Randal Brumbaugh started driving the team bus. He’s seen some big games, and has been in attendance for all 10 state tournaments during Cutler’s era.
Thursday at the first round of the Class A state tournament, Brumbaugh saw Platte-Geddes upset Clark/Willow Lake 66-51 in what Cutler called one of his most memorable wins.
Platte-Geddes led for the majority of the game and held a five-point advantage early in the fourth quarter.
With 6:16 to go, Cutler called a timeout and senior guard Tate Van Zee eventually knocked down a 3-pointer that sparked a 13-2 run to give the Black Panthers a double-digit lead and grasp control of the game.
“There were so many huge shots, but of course that one sticks out,” Cutler said, adding, “I think we just made plays over and over again when they got close. When you keep scoring, that keeps you calm.”
At 7 p.m. Central time today, Platte-Geddes plays Tea Area in the semifinals at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, with the winner earning a spot in Saturday’s title.
The Black Panthers are riding a seven-game win streak and an extremely emotional first-round victory at state.
Cutler said Thursday’s win means a great deal to him because of the huge odds stacked against his team.
He knew there weren’t many people picking a 16-7 Platte-Geddes team to beat Clark/Willow Lake, which came into the game with a 21-0 record and is a returning state tournament qualifier, taking sixth place last year.
“When you come in as an eighth seed, nobody except a few people and people in our bus and our fans were expecting a win,” Cutler said. “Maybe even some of our fans were thinking, ‘Whoa, we’re playing the number-one seed, someone that hasn’t been beat.’ ”
The only people Cutler knew who thought his team had a chance to win were the kids on the team, some of the community members and the guy who’s been driving bus for the past 24 years.
“This one definitely ranks right up there,” Cutler said.