HURON — The De Smet Lady Bulldogs sit alone atop the Class “B” girls’ basketball world in South Dakota. The Lady Bulldogs claimed their first state title Saturday night, with a dominant 49-39 win over the previously undefeated Ethan Rustlers at Huron Arena.
“This was all due to our defense tonight,” said De Smet coach Doug Osthus as his team celebrated with its fans on the Arena court. “We knew that we were going to have to contain (Karly) Gustafson and boy did they do a good job on a truly great player!”
The 6-foot Gustafson, a returning All-State first teamer, came in as Ethan’s anointed leader and after being the team’s top scorer for their undefeated season it would be normal to focus a team’s defense on the Rustler’s forward. But De Smet’s Reyna Beck and Rynn Osthus took turns hounding Gustafson. That she still led Ethan in scoring with 12 points and everyone in rebonds with 12, is testament to her talent and intensity.
She accomplished that 12 points, however, shooting 5 of 16 from the field, as the Lady Bulldog defense slowly strangled the life out of the prolific Rustler attack.
And with Autumn Wilkinson and Rynn Othus connecting from distance, Kennadi Buchholz and Kristen Poppen making the most of every opportunity inside, and Beck and Raegan Burke spotting up for timely baskets, De Smet broke a 4-4 tie in the first quarter with a 5-0 run and built a 15-9 lead after one quarter.
“We got some early baskets and that gave us a bit of a cushion,” coach Osthus pointed out. “That was big for us, to get us going and to get us comfortable.”
Ethan, playing from a position that they had rarely seen this season, got a bucket from Gustafson and a traditional three-point play from Cameryn Logan off a feed from Gustafson to cut the margin to a single point. Amid the Rustlers’ 5-0 run however, Ethan’s Maddie Miiller went down with her knee bent beneath her. The 5-6 junior returned to the bench with her knee iced, but didn’t return to action.
An exchange of baskets until halftime found De Smet commanding a 24-21 lead at the break.
The Ethan defense, which had been the team’s calling card the entire season had trouble in the closing moments of the first half, as Wilkinson got open - once on each baseline - and ripped the cords from distance. She ended the game with four three-point field goals and 12 points.
De Smet came out and added insurance points on its lead in the third quarter, as Beck hit one-of-two from the line, Osthus nailed a pair of charity tosses and Wilkinson connected again in the first two-and a half minutes, as the lead swelled to nine points.
Ethan rallied as Gustafson found Callie Hohn for an easy basket, hit a free throw and then hit a driving left-handed layup at the 2:46 mark to cut the lead to only four, but Osthus drained one of her three three-pointers and then hit a pair of free throws with seconds remaining in the quarter to push the lead back to seven, 35-28, and Ethan never got closer. Beck turned an ankle and Poppen also left the court for some injury treatment in the third quarter, but both retuned to action in the final period.
Wilkinson, Burke and Osthus all hit threes-pointers in the first four minutes of the final quarter to keep any chance of a Rustler rally at arm’s length, and while the Lady Bulldogs didn’t make free throws in the last minute when Ethan was forced to foul, the defense on the other end denied any chance of a comeback.
Osthus led the De Smet effort with 15 points and handed out four assists while going three-for-five from behind the arc and six-of-six at the free throw line. Wilkinson had 12 and Buchholz led the Lady Bulldogs on the boards with seven caroms.
Gustafson closed her high school career with a double double - 12 points and 12 rebounds - as Ethan struggled to find points. No other Rustler scored more than six and Ethan shot just 33 percent from the field and was 1-11 from the three-point arc.
De Smet only shot 38 percent from the field, but hit 8-21 from behind the arc and always seemed to find the open player at a time when they really needed to make a basket to stop an Ethan rally.
Both teams end the season with 24-1 records and while both will graduate some outstanding talent this spring, both will have solid returners back for next season.
De Smet 15 24 35 49
Ethan 9 21 28 39
DeSmet (24-1): Rynn Osthus 3-9 6-6 15, Reyna Beck 2-5 1-4 5, Raegan Burke 2-8 1-2 6, Kristen Poppen 2-6 0-0 4, Autumn Wilkinson 4-8 0-0 12, Kennadi Buchholz 3-6 1-1 7. Totals 16-42 9-13 49.
Ethan (24-1): Jessica Bartscher 2-3 0-0 5, Maddie Miiller 1-3 2-2 4, Lexi Lingemann 1-1 0-0 2, Adaya Plastow 2-2 0-0 4, Callie Hohn 2-2 2-2 6, Karly Gustafson 5-16 2-4 12, Cameryn Logan 2-14 2-3 6. Totals 15-45 8-11 39.
FG%: DeSmet .381, Ethan .333. 3-pt FG:DeSmet 8-21 (Osthus 3-5, Beck 0-2, Burke 1-6, Wilkinson 4-8), Ethan 1-11 (Bartscher 1-1, Gustafson 0-5, Bartscher 0-1, Logan 0-4). Rebounds: DeSmet 26 (Buchholz 7), Ethan 32 (Gustafson 12). Fouls DeSmet 14, Ethan 15. Fouled out: none. Technical: none. Assists: DeSmet 11 (Osthus 4), Ethan 6 (Gustafson 3). Steals: DeSmet 2 (Osthus 1, Poppen 1), Ethan 6 (Bartscher 3). Blocked shots: DeSmet 4 (Buchholz 3), Ethan 3 (Gustafson 2). Turnovers: DeSmet 11, Ethan 14.