BROOKINGS — In what was a game of one team making a run and the other responding, the Huron Tigers had the last run and made it stand up with stellar free throw shooting in the closing minute for a 53-44 win over the Brookings Bobcats in ESD Conference girls’ basketball. Huron moves to 9-8 with the win while Brookings sinks to 2-15. It was the first of four road games that will wrap up the regular season for the Tigers.
“We hung around and hung around and were able to hit some shots when we needed them to give ourselves a little bit of a cushion,” said Tiger coach Tim Buddenhagen, “then hit free throws to close it out.”
The win adds a bit of a cushion to Huron’s hold on the final SoDak 16 playoff home game in the power point rankings, while the loss puts Brookings, who came in with the 16th and final playoff spot in danger of missing the playoffs with only a handful of games remaining in the regular season.
Brookings took the lead seconds into the game as the Bobcats’ 6-foot, 5-inch junior Ainsley Shelsta hit a put-back. Alexis Feenstra countered with a basket for the Tigers seconds later and her shot ignited a flurry of points as three pointers from Hamtyn Heinz, Bella Shreeve and Heavan Gainey pushed Huron’s lead to nine points, at 11-2. The Bobcats scored on consecutive possessions, but Brooke Schiltz hit a bank shot from the top of the lane and Shreeve hit another three to give the Tigers a 16-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Huron increased its lead seconds into the second period, when Isabelle Ellwein came in off the bench and drained a three from beyond the top of the key. But that was it for Tiger scoring for nearly four minutes.
Brookings, on the other hand, heated up. Landree Wilson hit three straight three-pointers, Allie Clark hit a three and Wilson’s leaner in the lane capped a 14-0 run and gave the Bobcats a 22-19 lead. Schiltz hit another jumper and Heinz hit one-of-two from the line to knot the score at 22, but Shelsta shook loose underneath and her basket with three ticks left in the half gave Brookings a 24-22 lead headed to the halftime break.
“We got up 11 early and then all of a sudden the Wilson girl got open for those three shots and momentum changed,” Buddenhagen said. “But we kept grinding and gritted it out. We kept fighting.”
A pair of Shreeve free throws and another three from Gainey countered a pair of baskets from Shelsta and cut the Brookings lead to one point, 28-27 with 5:52 to play in the quarter. But the rest of the quarter belonged to the Tigers, as Gainey hit a short rainbow from the baseline to re-establish the lead. Heinz laced a three as the clock rolled past the three minute mark and another shot from Gainey - who had seven points in the quarter - put Huron up 34-29 with a minute and a half to play. Ellwein hit a short jumper and Heinz notched a pair of free throws with one second on the clock and Huron held a nine-point lead, at 38-29 heading to the fourth quarter.
Shelsta, who victimized the small Tiger front line, revealed an Achilles heel in the third quarter.
While the Bobcats’ post player could score inside if given enough chances, she had difficulty at the free throw line, as she went 1-for-6 in the third quarter from the charity stripe and was one-of-four in the final quarter.
“I can’t say enough about the job that Brooke, Alexis and Heavan did tonight against the Shelsta girl,” Buddenhagen said. “They just kept fighting and fighting. It was a tough assignment and they did a great job.”
Following the same script as the second quarter, Huron got a quick field goal to push the lead to 11 points, only to watch Brookings roll off eight straight points - six from Shelsta - to cut the margin to three, at 40-37.
Schiltz converted a baseline jumper and Ellwein hit a left side three to put Huron up 45-38 and while Wilson scored on a steal and breakaway layup, down the stretch the Bobcats were forced to foul and Huron answered the call.
Gainey, Heinz, Shreeve and Lexy Gilbert all hit two free throws in the final minute to secure the win for the Tigers.
“We need to do a better job of moving the ball against a zone defense,” Buddenhagen said. “It got ‘stuck’ at times tonight and we need to move the ball instead of waiting and then passing it. That is certainly something we will work on in practice.”
In the game, Gainey led the Tigers with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while playing with foul trouble much of the second half. Heinz notched 11 points and had six assists, while both Shreeve and Ellwein contributed 10 points.
While the Tigers got balanced production, Brookings only had three players score in the game, led by Shelsta’s 20-point, 20-rebound effort. Twelve of Shelsta’s rebounds were offensive. Wilson added 15 points.
Huron returns to action when it travels to Yankton to take on a one-win Gazelle’s team as Huron looks to notch its 10th win of the season.
In preliminary action, Huron’s JV team powered to a 55-43 win over the Bobcats. Brookings took the Freshman game, 47-42.
Huron 16 22 38 53
Brookings 8 24 29 44
Huron (9-8): Alexis Feenstra 1 0-0 2; Brooke Schiltz 3 0-0 6; Bella Shreeve 2 4-4 10; Hamtyn Heinz 2 5-6 11; Heavan Gainey 4 2-2 12; Lexy Gilbert 0 2-2 2; Isabelle Ellwein 4 0-0 10. Totals: 16 13-14 53
Brookings (2-15): Ainsley Shelsta 9 2-10 20; Allie Clark 3 1-2 9; Landree Wilson 6 0-0 15. Totals: 18 3-12 44.
FG: H - 16-54 30%; B - 18-54 33%. 3-pt FG: H - 8-35 23% (Shreeve 2, Heinz 2, Gainey 2, Ellwein 2); B - 5-20 25% (Wilson 3, Clark 2). Rebounds: H - 41 (Gainey 12); B - 38 (Shelsta 20). Turnovers: H - 14; B - 15. Assists: H - 13 (Heinz 6); B - 10 (Claire Burns 5) Fouls: H - 13; B - 14 (Haley Sampson out)