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In top-ranked Hanson Classic showdown, De Smet comes out victorious over White River

Class B No. 1 De Smet outscored No. 2 White River 23-10 in the third quarter to hand the Tigers their second loss of the season.

De Smet boys basketball (Damon Wilkinson)
De Smet's Damon Wilkinson throws down a two-handed dunk to cap a fast break during the second half of a Hanson Classic boys basketball contest against White River on Jan. 22, 2022, at the Corn Palace.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — If it wasn’t already clear who the frontrunner is in Class B boys basketball, it certainly is now.

The top two teams in Class B collided in the finale of the Hanson Classic at the Corn Palace on Saturday. Both De Smet and White River entered the game with only one loss on the season, but De Smet has been the unanimous No. 1-ranked team in Class B every week since the preseason poll was announced on Dec 6, 2021.

White River had the chance to knock off the reigning Class B state champions, but after a 23-point third quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 15-point lead, De Smet rolled to a 63-49 win.

“We knew after halftime that we needed to continue to get the ball to Damon [Wilkinson],” De Smet head coach Jeff Gruenhagen said. “We wanted to take advantage of their big having two fouls already and just keep feeding the post. It was a great team win.”

Before the third quarter began, De Smet (11-1) was already starting to slow down White River. During a back and forth first quarter that ended tied at 14, senior Kalen Garry and junior Joe Sayler were trading baskets. Garry had eight points in the first quarter for the Bulldogs while Sayler had 10 of the Tigers' 14 points.

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White River boys basketball (Joe Sayler)
White River's Joe Sayler (11) shoots a running floater in front of De Smet defenders Tory Holland (41) and Kalen Garry (15) during the second half of a Hanson Classic boys basketball contest against White River on Jan. 22, 2022, at the Corn Palace.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

In the second quarter, White River went cold after making its first shot. The Tigers missed their next eight shot attempts and committed two turnovers before Kendrell Cuevas ended the near four minute drought with a right-handed layup. Cuevas went 4-of-5 from the field in the first half for 10 points and Sayler went 4-for-17 from the field for 13 points. Sayler and Cuevas combined to shoot 22 of the team’s first 28 shot attempts. White River’s head coach Eldon Marshall said the game plan wasn’t executed how they drew it up during pregame.

“The game plan was to share the ball and make them work on defense,” Marshall said. “Then when Joe gets the ball in his hands, he’s going to look to score and we need him to score, but we need other guys to score too. We just needed guys to step up and hit some shots too.”

Despite the cold streak, De Smet only extended the lead to as much as seven. The Bulldogs missed five of their six free throws in the second quarter that would have at least given them a double-digit lead. Sayler made a halfcourt heave as the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half to cut De Smet’s lead back to two.

In the third quarter, De Smet got off to a 10-2 run that eventually led to the Bulldogs winning the quarter decisively. Wilkinson, who White River’s coach Marshall called “an issue” scored nine points in the third quarter, grabbed four rebounds and had one block.

“Coming into the game, we were saying I’m going to get one post touch every time down the floor,” Wilkinson said. “It was just a mental thing for me in the first half and then at halftime, my teammates were telling me just take it at them and go score it.”

De Smet boys basketball (Rett Osthus)
De Smet's Rett Osthus goes up for a layup during the second half of a Hanson Classic boys basketball contest against White River on Jan. 22, 2022, at the Corn Palace.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

Wilkinson scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half and shot 12-for-18 from the field for the game. He also finished with 11 rebounds, six of them being offensive, and three assists.

De Smet, which had its only loss come at the hands of nationally ranked Dream City Christian of Arizona in December, has now won 32 straight games against South Dakota competition, dating back to last season's 25-1 state championship season.

Garry ended the game shooting 50 percent from the field for 24 points, along with eight rebounds and three assists. Tory Holland had eight points and nine rebounds, while Rett Osthus added eight rebounds and six assists.

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For White River (7-2), Sayler led all scorers with 30 points and sank four 3-pointers. Cuevas finished with 10 points and Dylan Marshall finished with seven points.

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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