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Tigers are laser focused on defending ‘AA’ state champions

Posted: Friday, Mar 17th, 2017

HURON — While the Huron Tigers’ 2015-16 boys’ basketball season ended in disappointment with a pair of losses in the district tournament, their first round opponent in this year’s State “AA” was standing atop the podium at last season’s state tournament.

Sioux Falls Lincoln finished the 2016-17 regular season with a 9-10 mark, and was the third seed in District 2AA. The Patriots proceeded to beat crosstown rival S.F. Washington and then Harrisburg to qualify for this year’s AA.

Nothing awe-inspring there, right?

Well, last year, Lincoln came into the tournament with a 9-13 record, struggling to even qualify. But when the dust had cleared at the Sanford Premiere Center, the Patriots had held three opponents to an average of 46 points per game and were hoisting the hardware, again.

The year before that, the Patriots came in seeded No. 2 and were expected to make some noise at the tournament. Lincoln won the title in 2015 as well, and few will forget 2014 when Huron went into the AA as the top seed, and met Lincoln in the opening round on the same floor in Rapid City, falling 62-57 in overtime as the Patriots came back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force bonus play. Huron finished fifth and Lincoln was runner up that year.

So, coach Tim Buddenhagen has no problem getting his Tigers focused on their first-round opponent.

“We are focused on them and only them,” Buddenhagen said. “Lincoln seems at times to be disengaged during the season, but when tournament time rolls around they get engaged and focused. They show up to play at tournament time.”

Huron will start the same lineup that it has throughout much of the season. Seniors Hyland Heinz (5-11, 10.6 ppg), Cole Korkow (6-1, 3 rebounds per outing), Clay Korkow (6-0, 12.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and Tye Evers (6-5, 12.2, 5 rpg) will all be on the floor for the opening tip, as will 6-4 freshman Kobe Busch, who adds eight and four.

First off the bench this year has been 6-1 senior Landon Claeys. Sam Kretschmar (5-10 senior), 6-3 senior Parker DeJean, Isaac Carr, a 6-1 junior and Nolan Wiegel, a 5-11 junior have all seen action in Buddenhagen’s rotation and getting quality minutes from his bench players will be important for Huron’s outcome at this year’s tournament.

As a group, the second wave of Tigers average six points and five rebounds, and leads the league in heart and intangibles.

The Patriots of coach Jeff Halseth will start two seniors and three juniors Thursday.

Leading the way in scoring and rebounding is 6-foot, 5-inch junior Diang Gatluak (12.8, 6.2) with 6-3 senior Carson Coulter adding more height and just over nine points per game. In fact, outside of Gatluak, the other four starters all average between nine and nine-and-a-half points an outing. Dillon Barrow is a 6-2 junior who also dishes four assists per night, while Simon Higgason (5-10 senior) and Alex Glanzer (5-9 junior) are both sharpshooters for S.F. Lincoln. Six-three junior Christophe Bwanya is first off the bench, scoring 6.5 per game for Halseth.

Buddenhagen likes the way that his team matches up with this year’s rendition of the Patriots.

“They are athletic,” he said. “They like to get into the paint, draw you in and then kick it out, and they have some good shooters who we will need to account for.”

To limit Lincoln’s affinity to get out and run, Buddenhagen said that his Tigers will need to hit the boards and limit the Patriots’ opportunities.

“I think we match up with them really well,” Buddenhagen said. “We are probably a little more physical than they are, but they have some good shot blockers.”

“Lincoln gets a little helter skelter sometimes, and they like to get you running,” Buddenhagen noted. “But we have good senior leadership at our guards. We pass the ball well and our guys can get to the hoop and can also step out and shoot the ball.”

Although the Huron/Lincoln is a 4/5 matchup and is the second game in the tournament bracket, it will take place at 7 p.m. Mountain Time, as both the boys’ and girls’ AA tournaments are taking place at the same time.

For the complete article see the 03-16-2017 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-16-2017 paper.

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