Big third quarter propels ’Cats

Jason Ferguson
Whatever Custer High School boys head basketball coach Paul Kelley told his team at halftime of last Friday’s 52-23 win over visiting Hot Springs, he should bottle it and sell it.
Coming off a sluggish first half filled with missed shots, confusion and lack of execution on both ends of the floor, the Wildcats outscored the Bison 29-2 in the third quarter on the way to the win.
“I think our kids just kind of woke up at halftime and responded the way we thought they would in the beginning,” Kelley said. “Our shooting woes continued in the first half from some previous games. I told them that they are good shooters, to step up and have confidence.”
The Wildcats led only 17-14 at the end of the first half, with Kelley saying the team was not proud of the way it performed in that first half.
Things changed immediately in the second half, as Jace Kelley quickly buried a three-pointer, which was followed by an EJ Gonzalez layup on the fast break and another Kelley three-pointer. Moments later Dustyn Fish got into the three-pointer act, and Custer was suddenly up 31-14.
“Jace hitting that shot in the first part got us rolling and it started opening up,” Coach Kelley said.
The Wildcats played without the services of starting center Brody Martinez, who sat the game out with a back injury. That left few post players inside, and because of that, Kelley said a more perimeter-oriented game was the outcome.
“Without having Brody to get something going for us inside we had to shoot threes,” he said. “And we still didn’t shoot very well.”
The Wildcats scored 27 points in the third quarter before the Bison scored their first point of the frame, which came with around one minute left in the quarter. Jace Kelley drove for a basket and made it, was fouled and made the free throw to make the score 46-16 at the end of the third quarter and enact a running clock for the remainder of the game.
One week after lamenting the lack of effectiveness his team’s full court press was having on the opposition, the ’Cats ratcheted up the defensive pressure on the Bison in the second half and forced a bevy of turnovers.
“We wanted to speed things up as much as possible and try to make it more of a full court game,” Kelley said. “We have been working on a different kind of press and trying a lot of things defensively to see how they will work and give people different looks.”
While Kelley said he is somewhat concerned about his team’s shooting slump, he is more concerned about its free throw shooting, as the team is hovering around the 60 percent mark for the season. Against the Bison the team went 11 of 19 from the line.
“As games get more important we have to do a better job there,” he said.
Jace Kelley was the team’s leading scorer in the game, going for 23 points. Fish also scored in double figures with 11 points, while Daniel Sedlacek scored 10. Gage Tennyson led the team in rebounding with six.
The Wildcats play a pair of games this week, starting Thursday with a home matchup against the Spearfish Spartans. The Spartans are 6-9 on the season, but have moved back up to Class AA so many of their games have been played against other teams in that classification.
“They are very athletic. We have to play well and meet their aggressiveness,” Coach Kelley said. “We have to handle pressure and respond. Anytime we play Spearfish, it’s a war of attrition.”
The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start.
The following evening the 10-5 Wildcats head north to take on the 9-7 Belle Fourche Broncs in a game that is monumental for regional playoff seeding. Right now the Wildcats are second in the region while the Broncs are third.
Kelley said the Wildcats will have to pay special attention to the Broncs’ Kelby Olson, who has made a living this season on driving and scoring in the paint.
“Playing at Belle is always tough. They always seems to come down to the wire,” he said. “It’s tough playing these two games back-to-back, but we have to do it and play up to our ability. We need everybody to step up.”
That game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. tip.
Custer 10 7 29 10 —56
HS 4 10 2 7 —23
Custer—Dathan Elmore 1-4 0-0 2, Gunner Prior 1-7 1-2 3, Ashton Dekker 1-1 0-0 2, Dustyn Fish 4-10 2-4 11, Daniel Sedlacek 3-6 4-6 10, Jace Kelley 8-16 3-4 23, EJ Gonzalez 1-3 0-0 2, Gage Tennyson 0-1 0-0 0, AJ Kortemeyer 1-3 1-3 3. Totals: 20-51 11-19 56.
Hot Springs—Aidan Savage 1-4 0-2 2, Leon Bloom 0-3 0-0 0, Braden Grill 1-2 0-2 2, Cade Lockhart 0-1 0-0 0, Wrider Allison 3-7 3-4 9, Preston Iverson 0-2 0-0 0, Jameson Bossert 2-4 0-0 5, Zane Cope 1-5 0-0 2, Camron Maciejewski 1-2 0-0 3. Totals: 9-30 3-8 23.
Three-point goals: Custer 5 (Kelley 4, Fish), HS 2 (Bossert, Maciejewski). Rebounding: Custer 26 (Tennyson 6), HS 21. Assists: Custer 8. Turnovers: Custer 3. Total fouls: Custer 13, HS 16. Fouled out: none.

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