Wildcats defeat Cavaliers for first time in 10 years

Jason Ferguson and Nathan Steele

Forget just defeating the St. Thomas More Cavaliers for the first time in a decade—the Custer High School boys basketball manhandled the Cavaliers.
The Wildcats put an emphatic end to a 14-game losing streak to the Cavaliers that dated back to February of 2014, thumping the fifth-ranked Cavaliers 60-46 in a game the ’Cats controlled from start to finish and gave the ’Cats a signature win for the season.
It was also Custer’s first home win against the Cavaliers since Jan. 15, 2011, when the Wildcats defeated More 38-35 largely on the back of 22 completed free throws.
“This was big for us,” said Custer head coach Paul Kelley, who won his first game over More as the team’s head coach. Larry Luitjens was in his final year as head coach the last time Custer defeated the Cavaliers. “We played physical teams in our last two games and I think we have grown to accept that physicality.
“I really don’t care if it was St. Thomas More or whatever. We needed a win to get us back on track.”
Custer lead 14-11 after the first quarter, and extended the lead to 20-13 after a Roland Sedlacek offensive rebound and putback on which he was fouled.
A Turner Thompson three-pointer cut the Custer lead to four, but Rhett Lowe, who led the team with 16 points, answered with a three-pointer of his own.
Thompson made another three-pointer that was followed by a Chase Donnelly corner three for the Cavaliers to cut Custer’s lead to one at 23-22, and Custer began to miss point-blank shots and appeared to be poised to give up the lead.
That was not the case, however, as Cade Lehman scored underneath, but Custer led only 27-24 at the half after a More putback on an offensive rebound right before the half.
It was the third quarter when Custer began to pull away, including a hustle play from Lehamn as he tipped a loose ball to himself while on the run to set himself up for a layup on which he was fouled. He made the subsequent free throw to put Custer up 34-28.
Custer’s attacking, pressure defense, led by the relentless Lehman on the perimeter, gave More a dose of the medicine it usually dishes out on that end of the floor.
“Cade is our spark plug. He puts a lot of pressure on the ball. He has a motor like no other,” Kelley said. “Our defense...oh my God. It was fun to watch.”
Drew Lehman followed his younger brother’s basket up with a corner three-pointer, which was followed by a Lowe steal and basket at the 3:10 mark of the third quarter to put the Wildcats up 11 points at 39-28.
Lee Neugebauer temporarily stopped the bleeding for the Cavaliers with a bucket inside, but Lowe immediately stuck another three-pointer and followed that up with a stepback three with five seconds left in the quarter to put Custer up 15 at the end of the quarter, 48-33.
The Wildcats continued to pour it on, all the while  squelching any thought the Cavaliers would make a run to get back into the game. For every Cavalier basket, the Wildcats had an answer.
“You think Kyle (Virtue) carries this team, but Kyle has struggled the last three games a little bit. Rhett has stepped up, Cade has stepped up, Roland has stepped up, carter (Boyster) had some big rebounds and Drew had a three,” Kelley said. “We are becoming more of a complete team at times. We just have to get more consistent at it.”
After a Drew Lehman steal and basket at the 1:29 mark the Wildcats led by 18, and Kelley went to his bench for the remainder of the game.
“It’s about time,” a relieved Kelley said after the game, saying the final five minutes of the game couldn’t go by quick enough. “It’s great to have that big win against St. Thomas More. I just wish more people from Custer would have come out and enjoyed it, because I know we did.”
The Wildcats followed up the big win over the Cavaliers Saturday with a trip to Red Cloud, where they were able to keep the momentum going and squeak by with a 57-54 victory over the Cruaders.
The end of the first quarter saw both teams with a matched score of nine points, but it was the second quarter where the ’Cats really played with some heat, scoring 24 points, doubling Red Cloud’s 12.
“We really did what we were supposed to do in the second quarter—that’s typically how we play,” Kelley said.
Despite being outscored in the second half, the lead the team established in the front half was enough to secure them the win by the end of the game.
In the second half, Kelly said the team “played not to lose” but that “you could tell our kids were a little fatigued.”
Although happy with the back to back wins, the team still has some work to do, Kelley said.
“We’re happy, but just not satisfied,” said Kelley, adding he wants the team to continue to improve its communication on the court.
Basketball action begins Friday for the Wildcats this week, when they head to Hill City for a matchup with the 7-3 Rangers.
The Rangers are without the services of 6-8 Erick Jorgensen for the remainder of the season after he hurt his knee, but still will provide a stiff test the the Wildcats, Kelley said.
“They got us last year up there. We know they want to play us,” he said. “They have a lot of scrappy ball players. We have to be ready. We have the talent. We have the ability. It’s just whether or not we bring it night in, night out.”
The game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Saturday the team will head to Wall to face the Eagles for the second time, having already handily defeated the Eagles at the Lakota Nation Invitational.
“They are young, but are good. We are playing a lot of games on the road,” Kelley said. “Hopefully we can withstand that and give it our best effort.”
The game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start.
Custer    9    24    9    15    —57
RC    9    12    14    19    —54
Custer—Cade Lehman 2-9 0-0 4, Rhett Lowe 7-16 2-2 19, Brady Virtue 1-2 0-0 2, Cody Dirkes 0-1 1-2 1, Drew Lehman 1-3 0-0 2, Kyle Virtue 7-17 1-2 17, Roland Sedlacek 4-5 2-2 10, Carter Boyster 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 23-58 6-8 57.
Red Cloud—Nick Zuniga 2-5 0-0 6, Monty Montileaux 4-11 3-5 11, Braylon Little 6-11 0-0 15, Josh anderson 3-7 1-1 9, Caden Pourier 1-3 1-1 3, Chayton Palmier 4-4 0-0 8. Totals: 21-42 5-7 54.
Three-point goals: Custer 5 (Lowe 3, K. Virtue 2), RC 7 (Little 3, Zuniga 2, Anderson 2). Rebounding: Custer 27 (Virtue 9), RC 30 (Montileaux 11). Steals: Custer 10, RC 2. Assists: Custer 12 (Lowe 5), RC 15 (Montileaux 6). Turnovers: Custer 8, RC 19. Total fouls: Custer 14, RC 8. Fouled out: none.
Custer    14    13    21    12    —60
STM    11    13    10    12    —46
Custer—Kincade Lehman 4-9 1-1 10, Rhett Lowe 7-19 0-1 19, Brady Virtue 1-2 0-0 2, Cody Dirkes 1-5 0-0 2, Drew Lehman 2-3 1-2 6, Kyle Virtue 4-10 1-2 9, Roland Sedlacek 2-6 4-5 8, Carter Boyster 2-4 0-2 4. Totals: 23-58 7-13 17-44.
St. Thomas More—Holden Griswold 2-6 2-2 6, Peyton Young 0-6 2-2 2, Wyatt Gylten 3-6 0-0 8, Chase Donnelly 2-4 0-0 5, Spencer Johannesen 0-0 0-2 0, Broeden Sales 1-1 0-0 2, Max Speed 1-1 2-2 4, Josh Elder 1-2 0-0 2, Turner Thompson 2-6 0-0 4, Lee Neugebauer 2-5 0-1 4, Baron Slusarski 3-7 0-2 9. Totals: 17-44 6-11 46.
Three-point goals: Custer 7 (Lowe 5, B. Virtue, Dirkes), STM 6 (Slusarksi 3, Gylten 2,  Donnelly). Rebounding: Custer 31 (Sedlacek 8), STM 29 (Neugebauer 7). Steals: Custer 9, STM 5. Assists: Custer 15 (Lowe 5), STM 13. Turnovers: Custer 6, STM 17. Total fouls: Custer 16, STM 14. Fouled out: K. Virtue.

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