Top-ranked St. Thomas More blitzes Wildcats

Jason Ferguson
As has been the case for many teams in the Black Hills Conference over the past decade or so, the Custer High School boys basketball team was standing on the tracks when the train came through last Thursday evening at the Armory.
The train is in the form of the St. Thomas More Cavaliers, who continued their dominance over Custer — and the Black Hills Conference in general — in a 64-27 win in which the Cavaliers looked every bit the undefeated and top-ranked team in Class A that they are.
“They’re good. There is a reason they are number one in the state,” said Custer head coach Paul Kelley. “I’ve watched those (St. Thomas More) seniors since they were little kids. They have played together for so long. You have to give them credit.”
The Cavaliers opened the game with a 5-0 lead and led 10-2 after a Michael Gylten three-pointer that led to a frustrated Kelley to take a time out. The Wildcats missed seven consecutive shots after the team’s first basket and also endured early foul trouble for both of their starting post players, AJ Kortemeyer and Brody Martinez.
“We got off to such a bad start, not making shots and getting behind by 10 early,” Kelley said. “It’s tough when you are playing uphill all night. You can’t do that against a great team like St. Thomas More.”
Jace Kelley hit a pair of free throws toward the end of the quarter and hit a basket at the 6:38 mark of the second quarter to try to keep the St. Thomas More advantage to around 10 points, but a Ryder Kirsch basket for St. Thomas More followed by a Cavalier free throw and a More steal and layup capped a big More run that saw the Cavaliers take a 27-8 lead.
Caden Casey kept things going for the Cavaliers with a three-pointer moments later, and, after a Gunner Prior three-pointer for Custer, Gylten and Connor Hollenbeck both hit threes for More to make the score 40-11, essentially ending the game before halftime. The Cavaliers eventually took a 30-point lead, leading to a running clock that further limited Custer’s ability to get back into the game.
More did its level best to take Jace Kelley out of the game, limiting him to 11 points on 33 percent shooting. No other Wildcat had more than six points. The Wildcats attempted only 30 shots in the game and made only 30 percent of those.
“You need to have that second, third or fourth player to give you a chance,” coach Kelley said. “St. Thomas More makes it hard to score. They make you work so hard to get a shot. They bully you and we climbed into a shell.”
Kelley said he believes the Wildcats are a better team than they showed against More, but added the Wildcats — in virtually every sport — have a mental block when it comes to competing against the Cavaliers.
“They are head and shoulders above us right now, but I don’t think we’re that bad,” he said. “We have to find a way to go above and beyond (the mental block).”
The Wildcats will look to get back on the left side of the win-loss column Thursday when the 2-7 Irrigators of Newell come to Custer. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Kelley said Newell is similar to Hill City in that it has a lot of young players in the middle of a rebuild, which means his team will concentrate more on doing the things it needs to do to improve as opposed to being overly occupied with scheming for the Irrigators.
The team has a much steeper challenge Saturday when it travels to Red Cloud, a team that is 6-4 and traditionally plays Custer tough, particularly when the games are on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
“Red Cloud isn’t what they have been the last few years, but they are still good,” Kelley said. “Red Cloud is a hard place to play. We’re going to have to play well if we are going to get a win against them.”
The game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. start.
The two games this week are the start of a 10-game stretch in which Kelley feels all the games are winnable.
“There are going to be some tough games, but it sets up quite well,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do to get where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Custer 4 13 7 3 —27
STM 14 30 16 4 —64
Custer—Dathan Elmore 0-2 0-0 0, Gunner Prior 1-3 0-1 3, Dustyn Fish 0-3 1-2 1, Daniel Sedlacek 1-2 2-2 4, Jace Kelley 4-12 2-3 11, Kaleb Wragge 0-0 2-2 2, Brody Martinez 3-8 0-0 6. Totals: 9-30 7-10 27.
St. Thomas More—Michael Gylten 2-2 0-0 6, Grant Huber 3-6 0-0 6, Connor Hollenbeck 4-6 0-0 9, Caden Casey 6-13 1-2 16, Charlie Larson 2-3 0-0 5, Ryder Kirsch 5-8 4-5 14, Ryan Wojcik 4-8 0-0 8, Ben Feist 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 26-47 5-7 64.
Three-point goals: Custer 2 (Kelley, Prior), STM 7 (Casey 3, Gylten 2, Hollenbeck, Larson). Rebounding: Custer 17, STM 20 (Kirsch 7). Assists: Custer 3, STM 7. Turnovers: Custer 7, STM 3. Total fouls: Custer 14, STM 14. Fouled out: none.

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