’Cats win Chadron tournament

Jason Ferguson
The Custer High School boys basketball team led by as many as 15 points in the championship game of the Chadron Rotary George Watson Holiday Basketball Classic Dec. 31 in Chadron, Neb., but had to survive some missed free throws and a furious Chadron comeback on the way to a 54-50 win at the tournament title.
“We didn’t play very well in the beginning. We played to their style in the first half,” said Paul Kelley, Custer head coach.
He said the Wildcats got things going with some three-pointers toward the end of the first half before making the game less a half-court battle and more full-court in the second half to build a lead.
The Cardinals led Custer 24-23 at the half, but Custer was ahead 38-31 heading into the fourth quarter before pushing the lead to 15 in the last quarter.   There was plenty of suspense during the final two and a half minutes when the Cardinals began fouling to send the Wildcats to the free throw line. Custer missed five of its first six foul shots, allowing Chadron to pull within five points with 38 seconds remaining. The Wildcats hit 10 of 23 free throw attempts in the game.
“We’re too good of a shooting team to be shooting 52 percent [for the season] from the free throw line,” Kelley said. “We need more concentration on our free throw shooting. Eventually those things will come around.”
Both Trevor Berry and Cooper Heusman hit three-pointers for the Cards in the final 25 seconds to cut the deficit to 53-50 before time ran out. 
Dustyn Fish hit all four of his free throws late in the game to stave off the Chadron charge. Jace Kelley, who sank six three-pointers, led Custer with 19 points, while Daniel Sedlacek added 13 and Fish 11.
“Dustyn stepped up,” Paul Kelley said. “Overall I was extremely pleased. Chadron is a good team with good athletes. We kept them off the boards for the most part and limited them to one shot. That is what was able to break their spirit a bit.”
Both games in the tournament were played without a shot clock, as there is no shot clock for high school basketball in Nebraska.
“It’s not how we’re used to playing. It takes some adjusting,” Kelley said.
The previous day the ’Cats had little trouble with Valentine, Neb., as Jace Kelley hit five three-pointers and scored 27 points to lead Custer to the 81-45 victory. Both Sedlacek and E.J. Gonzalez added 11 points and Fish chipped in 10 for the Wildcats.
“It was a fun game. We got out and ran and hit some open shots,” coach Kelley said. “We are starting to play more of a complete game. Our defense improved, which was a big concern going in.”
Kelley added AJ Kortemeyer, who scored eight points, played his best game of the season to help establish a post presence, while Gonzalez also had a strong game.
“He came in and got some big steals that led to easy baskets,” Kelley said.
The Wildcats, now 5-2 for the season, will play a pair of games this week, beginning with a trip to Hill City Thursday for a 7 p.m. game before hosting Sturgis Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
It’s a rebuilding year for the Rangers, as they are 0-4 for the season and have had trouble scoring.
“Hill City is struggling right now,” Kelley said. “But it’s about us getting better and playing better regardless of competition.”
The Scoopers are 1-2, with a victory over Douglas and losses to Aberdeen Central and Belle Fourche.
Kelley said Sturgis is big and athletic, which means the Wildcats will have to match the Scoopers’ level of physicality.
“We haven’t beaten Sturgis in a few years. It should be a game our kids are looking forward to,” he said. “Sturgis is very well coached. It’s a big game for us.”
Custer 9 14 15 16 —54
Chad 14 10 7 19 —50
Custer—Dustyn Fish 3-5 4-4 11, Daniel Sedlacek 5-10 2-6 13, Jace Kelley 6-21 1-4 19, EJ Gonzalez 0-1 0-0 0, Kaleb Wragge 1-1 0-0 2, Brody Martinez 3-8 2-4 8, AJ Kortemeyer 0-0 1-5 1. Totals: 18-46 10-23 54.
Three-point goals: Kelley 6, Fish 1. Rebounding: Custer 29 (Kelley 9). Steals: Custer 3. Assists: Custer 8. Turnovers: Custer 9. Total fouls: Custer 10. Fouled out: none.
Custer 16 23 21 21 —81
Heming 7 14 10 14 —45
Custer—Dathan Elmore 2-2 0-0 4, Gavin Klein 0-1 0-0 0, Dustyn Fish 4-10 0-0 10, Tristen Scheleske 0-1 0-0 0, Daniel Sedlacek 5-9 1-2 11, Jace Kelley 11-21 0-0 27, EJ Gonzalez 5-8 1-1 11, Kaleb Wragge 2-2 0-0 4, Brody Martinez 3-4 0-1 6, AJ Kortemeyer 4-5 0-0 8. Total fouls: 36-63 2-4 81.
Three-point goals: Kelley 5, Fish 2. Rebounding: Custer 20 (Kelley 7). Steals: Custer 12 (Kelley 3). Assists: Custer 14. Turnovers: Custer 11. Total fouls: Custer 12. fouled out: none.

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