Howard nips White River at the buzzer: Aslesen’s offensive putback caps thriller

Aslesen’s offensive putback lifts Howard over White River, 77-75

Howard's Sam Aslesen goes up for a shot against White River's Joe Sayler on Wednesday at the Corn Palace Classic.

Howard and White River gave everybody another thriller in 2020.

The all-Tiger battle capped off the Corn Palace Classic on Wednesday, but unlike the DWU/Culver’s Classic in February, it was Howard coming out on top. Sam Aslesen’s offensive putback dropped in at the buzzer to lift Howard to a 77-75 win over No. 4 White River at the Corn Palace.

“It was just an absolute thriller,” Howard coach Nick Koepsell said. “That to me is what South Dakota Class B basketball is all about, getting a chance to play a powerhouse like White River, in a venue like the Corn Palace is about as good as it gets.”


The Tiger-Tiger rematch felt similar to last season’s contest, in which White River won 68-66 on a Dylan Marshall mid-range jumper, capping off a 13-point fourth-quarter rally.

“We were waiting a really long time to play that game after last year,” said Aslesen, who finished with 27 points. “So that just felt really good. Last year, we slipped up in the second half and this year we made sure to finish the game off.”

Howard (4-0) almost let this one slip away, too. White River (2-2) sophomore guard Joe Sayler erupted for 38 points and five 3-pointers. The South Dakota State University commit did his damage attacking, spinning, dishing and shooting from all over against Howard.

“It was just incredible,” Koepsell said. “Tisyn Spader had the job of chasing him around the court all night long and he expended every bit of energy he had tonight. Our whole defense was designed to focus on him. He’s just an amazing player.”

Sayler’s fifth 3-pointer gave White River a 75-73 lead with 1:03 left on the clock. Howard evened it back up on its next possession, while White River didn’t call a timeout. Sayler’s contested runner in the lane was no good and Howard called a timeout with eight ticks on the clock.

After the timeout, Aslesen attacked the right baseline and spotted Jace Sifore underneath the hoop. But after his contested shot missed, Aslesen corralled the rebound and put it back up with 1.5 seconds left. It hit the backboard, took two bounces on the rim and dropped in as time expired.

“It felt really good,” Aslesen said after his first career game-winning shot. “Especially since last year they had one like that against us, that was bouncing around for a while and went in.”

Sifore finished with 14 points, while Ryder Erickson and Spader both netted 11 points apiece. Colbe Scott had 18 points and four 3-pointers in the third quarter to spark White River’s rally. After Howard pulled ahead for a 42-32 halftime advantage, it jumped ahead by 10 points in the third quarter to set up a deja vu feeling.


“Last year, we were in the same situation,” Aslesen said. “We knew we had to keep our foot on the gas and keep going.”

Scott’s 3-pointers helped erase the double-digit deficit, setting up the dramatic finish and Aslesen’s buzzer-beater.

Howard plays Colman-Egan on Jan. 4 in Colman. White River plays Dell Rapids St. Mary on Saturday at the Sacred Hoops Classic at the Corn Palace.

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