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Alone at the top: Huskies stand as Class B's last unbeaten

BRIDGEWATER--At 12-0, the Bridgewater-Emery boys basketball team has moved to the No. 1 Class B ranking in the most recent South Dakota Sportswriters Association polls.

Bridgewater-Emery's Sawyer Schultz (3) drives past Prairie Seeds Academy's Jamar Robinson (4) during a game in the Mike Miller Classic Dec. 31, 2016 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Bridgewater-Emery's Sawyer Schultz (3) drives past Prairie Seeds Academy's Jamar Robinson (4) during a game in the Mike Miller Classic Dec. 31, 2016 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)

BRIDGEWATER-At 12-0, the Bridgewater-Emery boys basketball team has moved to the No. 1 Class B ranking in the most recent South Dakota Sportswriters Association polls.

But as the lone unbeaten team in Class B, the Huskies know all too well it's what happens at the end the of the season that matters most.

After Bridgewater-Emery's 46-39 comeback victory over the defending Class B state champions Warner, senior Cade Schmitt said the team was happy to earn the win, but added there is still bigger wins ahead.

"It doesn't really mean anything until it comes to the district and region tournament," said Schmitt, who had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds against the Monarchs. "We have to succeed there to get to the state tournament."

Schmitt was a junior on last year's Bridgewater-Emery team that entered the District 8B semifinals with a 15-5 record only to see the season come to a sudden stop. Hanson ended the Huskies' season with a 50-49 win at the Corn Palace.

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The Huskies only lost one senior from that team and returned four starters for the 2016-17 season and Bridgewater-Emery head coach Scott Schultz said the extra year of experience has played a big role in the team's 12-game winning streak to start the season.

"We've shared the ball real well and we've played well defensively," Schultz said. "It's been a combination of things, sharing the ball and being comfortable with where everybody is at on the floor."

Schultz didn't exclusively point to last year's postseason loss as motivation for his team, but said it's been a combination of factors pushing his squad this year.

"They are all one year older and the three seniors that we have realize it's their last time," Schultz said. "They want to lay it all out there on the floor and give it all we got."

Through 12 games this season, there has been little stopping the Huskies' offense. Four players are averaging 10 points or more and the team is scoring 68.5 points per game.

Jamin Arend leads the team with an average of 14.2 points per game, while Sawyer Schultz adds 13.9 points, Sam Arend chips in 11.3 points and Schmitt averages 10.7 points. With so many scoring options, the ball doesn't stop moving often for the Huskies, who are averaging 17.3 assists per game.

"We like to share the ball and we hope to make the extra pass," Scott Schultz said. "We pride ourselves on trying to find that open man. If one guy isn't hitting, we'll try and have everyone touch the ball until we find a hot hand."

Schmitt said the team has adopted a blue collar mentality stating "wins will come if we keep working hard."

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"Our guards do a great job of collapsing the defense and then dish it off," Schmitt said. "It doesn't really matter who scores. As long as we are winning games, that's all that matters to us."

Defensively, Bridgewater-Emery is allowing an average of 42 points per game and averages 23.9 defensive rebounds per game as a team. Both Schultz and Schmitt said limiting teams to one shot per possession has been a high priority for the Huskies.

"Defensive rebounding and defense is our main goal. If we stop teams, we'll win games," Schmitt said. "Our goal is to get to the state tournament and see what we can do from there."

As of Wednesday, the Huskies have earned seven wins against teams with winning records. With eight games left on the schedule until the District 8B tournament, the Huskies next toughest challenge will likely come against a still-to-be-named opponent in the Dakota Wesleyan University Classic on Feb. 11 at the Corn Palace. It will be Bridgewater-Emery's fifth game at the Corn Palace, which has been a home away from home for the Huskies as the team is 4-0 this season. The Corn Palace will host all District 8B games.

"Our kids just enjoy playing there," Schultz said. "I think it is comfortable for us. They don't look at it as a big venue or anything they just go in there and feel pretty comfortable."

Bridgewater-Emery plays Hanson on Friday in Emery.

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