With a 10-5 record entering Saturday's Dakota Wesleyan University Culver's Classic, Canistota was looking for a confidence booster.
The Hawks got it in a big way, defeating No. 1-ranked White River 60-59 in a Class B showdown at the Corn Palace.
"It was a huge win and I couldn't be prouder of our boys," Canistota coach Pat Jolley said. "We've been playing well. Defensively, we had to make a lot of adjustments tonight."
Canistota's Tyce Ortman hit a shot with 1:35 to play for the 60-59 lead, which would end up holding up as the winning score. The shot answered Luke Wells' go-ahead bucket for White River 59-58 with 2 minutes left in the game.
After both teams turned the ball over-the latter being a Canistota giveaway with 35 seconds left-the Tigers worked the clock down and with 3 seconds left, Wells short jump shot was off line, giving the Hawks the upset win.
"We came out in a zone and they really took it to us in that, and then we went man-to-man and then back to zone," Jolley said. "We tried to change it up during the game. We didn't match up well with them, so we decided to change the defense up and try to take them out of their rhythm a little bit."
The Hawks found a rhythm from the start, taking a 20-14 lead after the first quarter and grabbing their biggest lead of the game in the second period, leading by as many as eight. The Tigers fought back and pulled to within 39-36 at intermission, capped by a four-point play from Teron Sazue just before the halftime horn that cut a potential seven-point lead to three.
White River grabbed the lead for the first time with just under 5 minutes left in the third period at 44-43 with a basket by Wells. But Canistota took a 51-49 lead going into the exciting fourth quarter.
Chase Merrill led the Hawks with 15 points and five assists, followed by Ortman with 14 points and Jared Tieszen with 10 points and eight points.
Canistota (11-5) was 25-of-54 shooting from the field and 7-of-12 from the free throw line. The Hawks had 29 rebounds and they turned the ball over 10 times.
"We didn't get into any rhythm, so you have to really credit them," White River coach Eldon Marshall said. "Coach Jolley does an awesome job with his kids and they came in ready to go."
The Tigers were paced by Jadice Morrison and Wells with 18 points and nine rebounds and Sazue with 16 points.
"When we came down the stretch, we just weren't executing like we needed to. But we still had a chance to win, despite how terrible we played," Marshall said.
White River (14-2) was 24-of-52 shooting in the game, pulling down 24 rebounds and committing 11 turnovers.
Canistota hosts Howard Monday, while White River travels to Fort Pierre Thursday to take on Stanley County.
WR 14 36 49 59
C 20 39 51 60
White River (14-2): Jadice Morrison 18, Luke Wells 18, Teron Sazue 16, Nick Sayler 4, Izaiah Sorace 2, Tyson Iyotte 1.
Canistota (11-5): Chase Merrill 15, Tyce Ortman 14, Jared Tieszen 10, Tristan Pierce 8, Trey Ortman 5, Cole Papendick 4, Isiah Robertson 2, Blake Anderson 2.