Battle of the Best Games: Huskies completed perfect season with comeback victory
ABERDEEN -- Bridgewater-Emery’s perfect season was in serious jeopardy against Wolsey-Wessington.
In the 2017 Class B boys state championship, the Warbirds took an early double-digit lead and led by 13 points midway through the third quarter. But the Huskies pulled off a heart-pounding comeback and captured the state title, 63-58, over the Warbirds at Wachs Arena.
“It was a surreal moment,” former Bridgewater-Emery guard Jamin Arend said. “It’s still surreal to this point in time. There were great teams that could have won it. Fortunately we were the ones that came out on top and I was happy to be a part of it.”
It’s among the finalists for The Daily Republic’s Battle of the Best Games boys series. The Daily Republic’s Battle of the Best Games, which started last month by having readers vote on their top high school basketball title games, has picked four finalists in both the boys and girls divisions.
Readers are being called upon again to pick the No. 1 game in each category through online balloting. Voting is now open through mitchellrepublic.com., and will remain open through today.
Arend, who was then a sophomore for the Huskies, wasn’t fazed by the bright lights. He scored B-E’s final nine points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer and converted the game-clinching layup with eight seconds left. The current Dakota Wesleyan University football player finished with 19 points.
“He knocked some huge shots down and two or three of those were off great passes from Cole Gassman and they all complemented each other so well,” Bridgewater-Emery coach Scott Schultz said. “I think any given night we had somebody else that could step up and I think that was the beauty of the team was the balance and the leadership.”
The balance shined in the title tilt. Gassman finished with 17 points. Spirit of Su recipient Sam Arend tossed in 13 points, while Sawyer Schultz shook off a slow start and netted 12 points.
The leadership was on display, too. Senior Cade Schmitt sustained a minor knee injury in the semifinals against Sully Buttes and played just briefly the next night.
That opened up the door for fellow senior and reserve Colton Plagmann, who didn’t score and didn’t even attempt a single shot. But he helped turn the tide by drawing multiple charges and was a steady force on the court.
“He kind of brought us that extra energy and especially when we were down a little bit early on,” Scott Schultz said. “He kind of came in and brought that extra boost. I thought that was huge for us that night.”
His contributions weren’t lost on Jamin Arend, who recently watched the title game on DVD and he singled out Plagmann for embodying what it meant to be a Husky.
“Colton Plagmann is what made that team special,” Arend said. “He was a true role player. He was a true leader. He did whatever he needed to do to help us win. … He was the motor of that team. All those seniors were great leaders, but he always played his role. He always did his part. He never took a night off. He never took a practice off. He was the motor.”
The Warbirds, who received 15 points from Bennett White, jumped out to a 14-2 advantage and led 17-7 after the first quarter. The Huskies were down 31-23 at halftime and trailed 43-30 with four minutes left, but began chipping away at their largest deficit of the season. They got within 45-42 after the third quarter.
Sam Arend’s 3-pointer with 6:06 left gave the Huskies their first lead at 50-49. White willed his team down the stretch and scored W-W’s final eight points.
He hit a field goal with 1:33 left to put Wolsey-Wessington ahead 58-56. But after White’s basket, Jamin Arend drilled the go-ahead 3-pointer and later converted two free throws to make it 61-58.
After a Wolsey-Wessington timeout, Schultz tipped a pass attempt and Jamin Arend scored the game-clinching layup. The Huskies got another steal on the ensuing inbound and dribbled out the clock.
“Coach Schultz always talked about how you want to start the game strong and end the game strong,” Jamin Arend said. “We had a really, really bad start and a really great finish. It was just great to see those guys playing roles the whole season and step up in the big moment.”
The win completed a 26-0 season for the Huskies, who won their first state basketball title in consolidated school history. Bridgewater-Emery followed up the state title with back-to-back third-place finishes at state.
“Both towns -- separate of themselves -- were traditionally great basketball teams,” coach Schultz said. “Both towns had very good players. They battled each other all the time and to come together like that, as one, and to win it for both towns, was truly special.”