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Boys team a puzzle wrapped in an enigma

Jason Ferguson
Published: Thursday, March 14th, 2013

 

Having covered Custer High School athletics for over a decade now, I feel Iâ��have a pretty good grasp on how Wildcat sports teams are going to do long before the team ever sets foot on its respective field or court of play at the beginning of the season. Two weeks after the season ended for the high school boys basketball team, I’m still mystified by the season the team had.
In my weekly conversations with head coach Larry Luitjens, I routinely confessed to him this year’s team was the most baffling team I could remember covering for the Chronicle. Iâ��can’t remember a team that could alternate so wildly between brilliant and horrible play during the course of a season, a game or even a quarter. It was, and remains, mind-boggling.
When the season began, I looked at the returning players and pegged the team to, at the very least, reach the District 15A championship game. Iâ��knew Red Cloud would again be tough, but I thought a state tournament berth was possible if the team could get out of the district. I also thought St. Thomas More would be down this year after graduating virtually its entire team, and we saw that wasn’t the case.
One of the team’s main problems was its interior defense, and oftentimes, its defense as a whole. In my years at the Chronicle, one of the calling cards of a Luitjens team is its defense. This season, players seemed to frequently alternate between good and bad defensive play, and never really seemed to be all on the same page defensively. Over the second half of the year the book was out on Custer—get the ball inside.
Several teams, including St. Thomas More, Pine Ridge, Red Cloud and perhaps most stunningly, Hot Springs in the first round of districts, all had a field day on the interior against Custer.
The team had a down year shooting, as well. The team was loaded with good shooters, but the shooting abandoned the team in many games, particularly against physical teams. Custer had too many games where it shot in the high 20s or low 30s in terms of shooting percentage to ever put together a long winning streak.
The final thing Iâ��noticed this season was the team’s bizarre penchant for spotting the opposing team 10 to 15 points before it started to play. I’m sure Luitjens got sick of me asking the same “why does this team start so slow” question every Monday morning. It was a question he never could answer. I jokingly told him he should have the team play half a game in the small gym before it played the game that counted later that night.
It could be argued the team played its best ball at the beginning of the season, when it hammered Newcastle and then lost a close game at home to Spearfish. Aâ��four point loss on the road to St. Thomas More was more proof that this team could play with anybody when it was firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, those types of performances weren’t as often as us fans would like.
The team also ran into some flat-out bad luck. It seemed like every team that played Custer suddenly couldn’t miss a shot, and losing point guard Cody Martinz to a broken wrist for a stretch in the season certainly didn’t help anything.
Prior to the team’s district game against Hot Springs, someone asked me how I thought the team would do in the postseason. I told them it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them make a run all the way to the state tournament. Iâ��followed that up by saying it also wouldn’t surprise me if the team lost to Hot Springs. That’s how unpredictable they were. Unfortunately, it was the latter that happened, and not the former.
The tough part is, Iâ��still feel Custer’s best game would have given Red Cloud all it wanted in the district championship game, as well as Spearfish in the region championship game. For whatever reason, though, the team just never put everything together. Maybe there is a reason for it that only the players and coaches know. I know Iâ��sure don’t have any idea.
The good news is, the team has some excellent players coming back next season, led by Chase Glazier, who in my opinion is the best all-around player Custer has had since Paige Paulsen. He and Kenneth Myers will make a nice one-two punch. If the younger players work hard on their game and develop, the team should be much better next year.
I grant you, I said the same thing about the team a year ago. But, as a Wildcat fan like most of you reading this, I’m an eternal optimist.
As for this last season? You are what your record says you are, and at 11-10, the team was average. The guys played hard and never quit, which is something they can all be proud of. Not every year can be a banner year, no matter how much I continually predict it to be.

Having covered Custer High School athletics for over a decade now, I feel Iâ��have a pretty good grasp on how Wildcat sports teams are going to do long before the team ever sets foot on its respective field or court of play at the beginning of the season. Two weeks after the season ended for the high school boys basketball team, I’m still mystified by the season the team had.

In my weekly conversations with head coach Larry Luitjens, I routinely confessed to him this year’s team was the most baffling team I could remember covering for the Chronicle. Iâ��can’t remember a team that could alternate so wildly between brilliant and horrible play during the course of a season, a game or even a quarter. It was, and remains, mind-boggling.

When the season began, I looked at the returning players and pegged the team to, at the very least, reach the District 15A championship game. Iâ��knew Red Cloud would again be tough, but I thought a state tournament berth was possible if the team could get out of the district. I also thought St. Thomas More would be down this year after graduating virtually its entire team, and we saw that wasn’t the case.

One of the team’s main problems was its interior defense, and oftentimes, its defense as a whole. In my years at the Chronicle, one of the calling cards of a Luitjens team is its defense. This season, players seemed to frequently alternate between good and bad defensive play, and never really seemed to be all on the same page defensively. Over the second half of the year the book was out on Custer—get the ball inside.

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