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Super Sophomore: Bridgewater-Emery’s Schultz named Republic player of the year

EMERY--The seed for Bridgewater-Emery's dream season was planted several years ago. Sophomore Sawyer Schultz and the Huskies were annual visitors to Wachs Arena in Aberdeen during the State B boys basketball tournament ever since grade school. Th...

Bridgewater-Emery sophomore Sawyer Schultz is the Daily Republic's boys basketball player of the year for the 2016-17 season. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Bridgewater-Emery sophomore Sawyer Schultz is the Daily Republic's boys basketball player of the year for the 2016-17 season. (Matt Gade / Republic)

EMERY-The seed for Bridgewater-Emery's dream season was planted several years ago.

Sophomore Sawyer Schultz and the Huskies were annual visitors to Wachs Arena in Aberdeen during the State B boys basketball tournament ever since grade school. They watched as White River scoring sensation Louie Krogman won his elusive state title in 2008 and dreamed of hoisting their own trophy one day.

They made the trip to Aberdeen again this March, but instead of watching, they were winning their first state title in consolidated school history. The Huskies capped off a 26-0 season with a thrilling 63-58 come-from-behind victory over Wolsey-Wessington in the title game.

"It is just a dream come true because that is all we ever wanted as little kids growing up watching sports," Schultz said. "We thought back to those little memories as kids watching all the ball players."

Schultz's favorite ball player was Krogman, who finished as South Dakota's all-time leading scorer. But Schultz was in awe of all the top Class B performers.

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"I loved watching everyone," Schultz said. "I just liked the competitiveness of the state tournament. It brings out the best in players and what they can do."

When they finally got their chance, it brought out the best in Schultz and the Huskies, who became the first team from either Bridgewater or Emery to complete an undefeated season.

"This season was unreal," Schultz said. "It was something nobody will forget. It just feels great. This season was all about the team. Not really one person. It was more of a team effort."

As a result, Schultz has been selected as The Daily Republic's boys basketball player of the year. Schultz received all three first-place votes and 15 points in the voting, which is conducted by the newspaper's sports staff.

A number of other area standouts also received consideration for the award, including Chamberlain's Seth Friesz and Tiegen Priebe, Bridgewater-Emery's Jamin Arend and Sam Arend, Mount Vernon/Plankinton's Devin Rihanek and Corsica-Stickney's Clayton Menning.

Schultz is the first sophomore to win the boys basketball award in the 23-year history of the honor.

Father-son duo

Bridgewater-Emery coach Scott Schultz not only won his first state title as a coach this season, but also shared it with his son.

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Sawyer said his father's been instrumental in his development on the court. He's not only worked with Sawyer, but also with the other Huskies through the years.

"We have been working with these boys for quite a few years and been going to a lot of tournaments with them since they were in grade school," Scott said. "So in that respect, we have been with them for a long time. We have been working with them and it made it real special."

After playing junior varsity as an eighth grader, Sawyer has started the past two seasons for his father.

"For anybody to coach their own son, it is a very unique experience and for us, we've always tried to separate once the game is over, once we are home and everything like that," Scott said. "We are not about the game and we don't go back over things and talk about them."

Sawyer's years spent around the game has translated onto the court. Scott said most players who grew up around the sport have that knack for making plays and Sawyer is no different.

"They are in the gym since they have been very small," Scott said. "They are just around it so often. They understand or they kind of have a feel for it."

The 6-foot-3 sophomore's feel for the game is reflected in his numbers. The explosive guard led the team in scoring (15.3), assists (4.5), steals (2.6) and blocked shots (22). He was second on the team in rebounding at 6.1 boards per game.

"There is really nothing you can say and be like, 'Wow, he is not very good at this one thing,' " B-E senior Cade Schmitt said. "He is pretty much good at all of them. It's all through the hard work in the gym with his dad."

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Does it all

Throughout the year, Sawyer Schultz showed an uncanny ability for making game-winning plays. He scored a career-high 34 points in B-E's 69-64 win over Chester Area for the Region 4B crown. Schultz netted 14 points in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.

But he's more than just a scorer. He went through a 5-for-18 shooting performance in the semifinal win over Sully Buttes, but made plays with his passing and defense. Schultz handed out some big late-game assists and forced a traveling call late on the Chargers.

"If I am getting guarded, I make plays for my teammates," said Schultz, who said his favorite part of the game is passing the ball. "I don't care if I score or not. I just like when it comes down to it, I like being the guy who just has the team on his back and my teammates know that."

One of those teammates would be Schmitt, who has been on the receiving end of several Schultz dishes through the years and said he makes everyone around him better.

"It doesn't matter if he scores or if he's having a bad night, he gets everyone involved," Schmitt said.

In a game earlier this season against Viborg-Hurley, Schultz scored only five points but he recorded 11 assists. He had a 17-point, 12-rebound and eight-assist game against Parker this season.

"He pretty much does everything for us," Schmitt said. "He handles the ball. He steals, rebounds, defends, scores. He is just a great player and a great teammate."

Schultz is active in other sports and activities all year long. He's competes in track & field, baseball and football. He's also involved in band, choir, honor society and carries a 3.6 grade-point average.

He's plays for South Dakota Attack during the AAU traveling season. He hopes to play college basketball and is starting to hear from some colleges, but he's not even thinking about that yet.

"I am all about high school right now," Sawyer said. "I am loving it right now."

Schultz and the Huskies entered this season unranked in the preseason South Dakota Sportswriters Association basketball poll. They won't be a surprise team next season as they return three starters and some key reserves.

Schultz doesn't see the expectations as pressure, but rather something to build upon.

"We are going to put in the work this summer," he said. "Obviously, other teams are going to put in the work, too. But it is going to be about the effort in the summer and the offseason that really matters."

Here's a look at the rest of the award nominees with vote total in parentheses:

Friesz (11): The 6-foot-1 senior guard led the Cubs back to the State A tournament for the second straight season, where they finished seventh this year. Friesz averaged 23.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Friesz, who was the 2016 Daily Republic player of the year, finished his career with 1,000 career points. Friesz will play basketball at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.

Jamin Arend (8): The 6-foot sophomore guard was key in the Huskies' state title run. He averaged 13.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Arend scored B-E's final nine points in the state title game, including the go-ahead 3-pointer and a game-clinching steal and layup with eight seconds left. He knocked down a team-high 61 3-pointers this season.

Rihanek (5): The 5-foot-11 senior forward helped the Titans reach the State A tournament for the third straight season. Rihanek was awarded the prestigious Spirit of Su award at the tournament. The future Dakota Wesleyan University basketball player averaged 12.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game this season.

Sam Arend (3): The 6-foot-1 senior guard registered 13.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and nailed 44 3-pointers for the state champs. Arend received the Spirit of Su award at the State B tournament.

Menning (2): The 6-foot senior guard recorded 16 points and six rebounds per game for the Jaguars this season. He also registered 88 assists and 49 steals, while shooting 54 percent from the field and 70 percent at the free throw line. Menning finished his career with 940 career points.

Priebe (1): The 5-foot-9 guard was instrumental in Chamberlain's back-to-back berths in the State A tournament. He averaged 16.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and dished out 110 assists this season for the Cubs. Priebe surpassed 1,000 career points earlier this year.

Past winners

1995: Chris Janssen, Emery

1996: Cody Vollmer, Lyman

1997: Mike Miller, Mitchell

1998: Mike Miller, Mitchell

1999: Doug Hall, Scotland

2000: Jared Reiner, Tripp-Delmont

2001: Matt Jones, Alpena-Wessington Springs

2002: Ben DeWaard, Stickney

2003: Nathan Graves, Mitchell Christian

2004: Mike Steffen, Mount Vernon

2005: Preston Broughton, Corsica

2006: Danny Fathke, Avon

2007: Matt Malloy, Parkston

2008: Jordan Miller, Mitchell

2009: David Maxwell, Parkston

2010: Jesse Tolsma, Mitchell Christian

2011: Tucker Volesky, Mitchell

2012: Jade Miller, Mitchell

2013: Jesse Taylor, Kimball/White Lake

2014: Coby Johnson, Platte-Geddes

2015: Taylor Nichols, Hanson

2016: Seth Freisz, Chamberlain

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