Shooting woes killing ’Cats
Published: Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Custer High School boys basketball coach Larry Luitjens knows his team is struggling mightily to make a basket. What he doesn’t know is how to correct it.
The Wildcats dropped a pair of games last week—including blowing a 15-point lead with 10 minutes left in a game against Hot Springs—in which they shot 27 percent against the Bison and 33 percent in a loss to Sisseton.
The bad shooting has cropped up in several games this year, but Luitjens said he considers most of the players on his team to be good shooters and is mystified as to why it disappears come game time.
“Iâï¿½ï¿½don’t know what’s the matter with our shooting.âï¿½ï¿½I have no idea,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.âï¿½ï¿½“I don’t know what to do. I’ve never been so frustrated in all my life. That’s two ball games we should have won. We were (the) better (team).”
You can say this for the Hot Springs High School boys basketball team:âï¿½ï¿½They know how to make an exit.
For the second consecutive game in the Armory, the Bison came into a game against Custer as decided underdogs last Friday night, dug themselves a big hole and came storming back to beat Custer at the buzzer, just as they did a year ago in the first round of District 15A play. And, just like a year ago in district play, it was Bison big man Hunter Pulscher with the bucket that won the game.
With six seconds left in regulation and the game tied at 47, Hot Springs’ Cole Berkley fired a three-pointer that missed, was rebounded by Bison teammate Jacob Tarrell who subsequently missed, and that miss was rebounded by Pulscher, who eased the ball into the cylinder as time expired for the 49-47 win.
The final sequence was a microcosm of the entire second half for Custer, with the Bison out-rebounding, out-scoring, out-hustling—out everything-ing—the Wildcats.
As the Bison fans and players celebrated wildly on the court, the Wildcat players trudged off the floor, having blown a 15-point lead with just over a quarter left in the game.
Luitjens pointed to his team’s inability to make a basket in the second half as the culprit for the stunning loss.
“We probably should have quit shooting. We should have held the ball,”âï¿½ï¿½he said. “We didn’t attack the basket.”
Luitjens said he was “terribly disappointed”âï¿½ï¿½in the ’Cats’ rebounding effort in the second half, but said he had not yet watched film of the last play to see “whether anybody tried to do anything at all.”
As awful as the second half was for Custer, the first half was equally as impressive, as the Wildcats locked down on defense and stormed out to a 13-2 lead at the end of the first quarter, thanks to offense provided by Glazier and Myers and defense from Adam Baker, who blocked four shots within the first 10 minutes of the game and altered several more.
Aâï¿½ï¿½Myers drive and a basket with a foul and free throw gave Custer a 24-9 lead with 2:42 left in the second quarter.
The game appeared it might turn in favor of Hot Springs shortly thereafter, when Tarrell hit a three-pointer to make the score 24-13 and Custer’s David Hernandez was called for a technical foul for arguing a foul call. However, the Bison promptly missed all four free throws—two for the technical and two for the foul—and were then whistled for a five-second violation attempting to inbound the ball, and Custer led 26-13 at the half.
It didn’t appear the Bison would threaten Custer for the majority of the third quarter, with the teams trading baskets until the 3:13 mark, when Baker put back a Joel Thomsen miss that gave Custer a seemingly insurmountable 36-21 lead.
Apparently, the Bison had Custer right where they wanted them.
Derek Merchen drove to the hole for a Hot Springs basket, which was followed by a Berkley three-pointer—again after the Bison collected two offensive rebounds on the possession—and suddenly Custer’s lead was down to single digits at 38-31.
Tarrell hit a corner three-pointer to start the fourth quarter and the wheels began to fall off for Custer. The Wildcat offense was flummoxed by the 1-3-1 zone Hot Springs went into as the Wildcats missed shot after shot, many of them open, and began to turn the ball over.
“We should have moved Chase to the high post. The advantage there is Chase can shoot, drive or pass,”âï¿½ï¿½Luitjens said.
The Bison got within a point at 42-41 when Merchen again drove right to the rim—a recurring theme in the second half for the Bison—and the seemingly inevitable happened when the Bison took their first lead of the game at the 3:26 mark with a pair of free throws from Pulscher.
After a dominant defensive effort in the first half Baker fell into foul trouble in the second half and eventually fouled out, clearing a path to the rim for the Bison.
“He got into foul trouble and lost his aggresiveness,” Luitjens said of Baker.
Glazier got the lead back for Custer shortly after Pulscher’s free throws with a three-pointer, but Merchen again went right to the rim for a layup to tie the game, and Hot Springs reclaimed the lead with under a minute left on two Berkley free throws.
Custer answered, though, with a tough baseline jumper from Glazier that tied the game, which, unfortunately, only set up Pulscher’s heroics once again.
Luitjens said rather than believing Hot Springs has his team’s number, he believes the last two games are more of a coincidence, with his team playing poorly and Hot Springs playing hard and taking the victory from Custer.
“Our kids were ready to play. Did they stay ready? No,”âï¿½ï¿½he said. “We have to look at coaching here someplace, too.”
Myers led the team in scoring in the game with 19 points, but connected on only 29 percent of his shot attempts, while Glazier scored 17 points while shooting the same field goal percentage.
Against Sisseton in Pierre last Saturday, Custer led at the half before the Redmen pulled away in the second half for the 54-47 win.
“We played a lot better than we did against Hot Springs, but, again, we couldn’t make a basket,”âï¿½ï¿½Luitjens said.
Luitjens said the team did a solid job on both of the Redmen’s primary offensive weapons, 6-7 point guard Jordan Cornelius, whom the Wildcats held to 15 points, most of which was scored from the free throw line at the end of the game, and 6-8 post player Wyatt Youngblom, who scored 11, seven of which came from the line.
“Kenny guarded him (Cornelius) and took him right out of the game,” Luitjens said. “(Youngblom) has to weigh 250. He is built.”
Late in the game Glazier stole the ball and was headed to the hoop to cut the lead to two or even one, but slid on what Luitjens said was a slick floor all game long and fell, negating the chance to get within one possession.
This week the Wildcats have a pair of games, beginning Thursday night with a trip to Rapid City to take on the No. 3 ranked St. Thomas More Cavaliers, a team that already handily defeated Custer earlier this season. The Cavaliers are almost unbeatable at home, but Luitjens said if the team can avoid the start it had against the Cavs in Custer, it will have a good chance to spring the upset.
“We have played pretty well there the last couple of times,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.
The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. tip.
Friday will be a special night for Luitjens, the players and fans in general, as it will likely be the final home game for Luitjens in his illustrious career. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Luitjens said he hasn’t given much thought to the fact it will probably be his last home game as coach.
“Iâï¿½ï¿½guess I was so frustrated with not being able to make a basket I haven’t thought about it,” he said.
Luitjens said Belle Fourche is a team Custer should beat, but if some of his players don’t get their confidence back and start making baskets, it won’t matter who the team plays.
“It has to be a mental thing. Especially with Chase. He’s just totally frustrated,”âï¿½ï¿½Luitjens said. “It’s in his head. Iâï¿½ï¿½know that. Without him shoooting well, we’re not going to beat anybody.”
Custer 11 9 13 14 —47
Sisseton 12 7 16 19 —54
Custer—Logan Burns 1-3 0-0 2, Patrick Witt 0-1 0-0 0, Kenneth Myers 4-9 0-1 9, Chase Glazier 6-21 7-9 22, Joel Thomsen 1-6 2-2 4, Adam Baker 5-11 0-0 10. Totals:âï¿½ï¿½17-51 9-12 47.
Sisseton—Hunter Medenwald 0-4 0-0 0, Ethan Kranhold 6-13 2-3 20, Jordan Cornelius 4-6 5-7 15, Brayden Tasa 3-7 0-0 6, Dominic White 0-5 2-2 2, Wyatt Youngblom 2-6 7-8 11. Totals:âï¿½ï¿½15-41 16-20 54.
Three-point goals:âï¿½ï¿½Custer 4 (Glazier 3, Myers), Sisseton 8 (Kranhold 6, Cornelius 2). Rebounding:âï¿½ï¿½Custer 20 (Thomsen 6), Sisseton 28 (Youngblom 12). Assists: Custer 7, Sisseton 7. Steals: Custer 10, Sisseton 4. Turnovers:âï¿½ï¿½Custer 11, Sisseton 16. Total fouls:âï¿½ï¿½Custer 15, Sisseton 11. Fouled out: none.
Custer 13 13 12 9 —47
HS 2 11 18 18 —49
Custer—Logan Burns 0-2 0-0 0, Kenneth Myers 5-17 7-7 19, Chase Glazier 6-21 3-3 17, Joel Thomsen 1-6 0-1 2, Adam Baker 2-5 5-6 9. Totals:âï¿½ï¿½14-51 15-17 47.
Hot Springs—Cole Berkley 2-14 5-7 11, Caden Maciejewski 0-1 0-0 0, Grady Egly 3-11 2-2 8, Derek Merchen 6-9 2-6 14, Hunter Pulscher 1-5 3-6 5, Jacob Tarrell 4-12 0-3 11. Totals: 16-52 12-24 49.
Three-point goals:âï¿½ï¿½Custer 4 (Myers 2, Glazier 2). HSâï¿½ï¿½5 (Tarrell 3, Berkley 2). Rebounding:âï¿½ï¿½Custer 33 (Baker 12), HSâï¿½ï¿½33 (Tarrell 9, Egly 8, Merchen 8). Assists: Custer 4, HSâï¿½ï¿½4. Steals:âï¿½ï¿½Custer 5, HS 8. Turnovers:âï¿½ï¿½Custer 14, HSâï¿½ï¿½12. Total fouls:âï¿½ï¿½Custer 21, HSâï¿½ï¿½17. Fouled out:âï¿½ï¿½Baker. Technical foul: David Hernandez.
Click Here To See More Stories Like This