Timber Lake capped its best season ever by beating Canistota 64-52 and winning the consolation championship at the Class B Boys State Basketball Tournament on Don Meyer Court in Wach’s Arena in the Barnett Center on the campus of Northern State University in Aberdeen on Saturday.
“We knew after last season that we had a group who had the potential to be special,” said coach Cody Lawrence. “Watching them grow throughout the season was especially fun. We asked for effort every single day and through hard work in practice they made the games seem easier, and it prepared them for the success they were able to achieve. We never really talked about placing at the state tournament, but we knew we were getting the opportunity to play three more games with the goal of winning as many of those as we could.”
After two consecutive games with a low-scoring first half, the Panthers puts points up from the get-go in their win over Canistota. Isaac Kraft got things going right off the bat. He picked off a pass on Canistota’s first possession and scored the game’s first points on a breakaway layup. After a Tucker Kraft two and a Jackson Harrison three, the Panthers had an early 7-2 lead. With Connor Carlson scoring eight points, the Hawks fought back to tie the game at 14-14 before Brayden Pay Pay hit the first of his four three-pointers and then Isaac Kraft hit a driving shot with 2.1 seconds left in the quarter to give Timber Lake a 19-14 lead.
Isaac Kraft started the second quarter in the exact fashion he started the game. Pay Pay took over after that, scoring seven points in the quarter including a basket with three seconds left to lift the Panthers to a 33-25 halftime lead.
Harrison had a big third quarter. He opened the second half with a three that gave the Panthers their first double-digit lead and then scored five straight points in the middle of the quarter. Canistota hung around in the quarter, but the Panthers held a 47-39 lead with eight minutes to play.
The Panthers started the fourth quarter on a 9-4 run that opened the lead to 13 points at 56-43. Canistota was never closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“We finally played a team that was similar to us, didn’t have to face 6’7” and 6’9” again,” said Lawrence. “The team seemed more confident in knowing that they wouldn’t have to help or double as often in this game.”
Lawrence said he could not discount the affect Isaac Kraft had on the game with his first half.
“Isaac had a great start for us,” said Lawrence. “He’s such an athletic kid and his ability to get in the lane makes him hard to contain.”
Pay Pay led the Panthers with 28 points, the second highest scoring game in the tourney (Sawyer Schultz of Bridgewater-Emery scored 38 in the third-place game), including helping put Canistota away with a 13-point fourth quarter. Tucker Kraft scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Harrison hit double figures with 11 points. Isaac Kraft finished with nine points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Carlson led Canistota with a 22-point, 14-rebound, double-double. Tyce Ortman scored 10 and Jordan Lee scored nine.
Pay Pay hit a six-foot floater with 27 seconds left to lift the Panthers to a 38-37 win over Langford Area in the consolation semifinals on Friday.
“When Brayden got the ball and attacked the rim, the defender decided to back off and I knew he’d have a clean look at the shot,” said Lawrence. “I think everyone knew it was going in when it left his hands.”
There were, of course, 30 second left and that meant the Panthers had to deal with the Lions’ 6’7” Mason Larson one more time. Harrison, just 5’8”, drew the assignment just as he had drawn the toughest defensive assignment the entire weekend. Harrison was up to the occasion, forcing Larson to put up a contested shot from the free throw line that bounced off the rim and into the hands of Isaac Kraft, preserving the win.
“We knew Jackson was going to make life tough on Mason,” said Lawrence. “We also knew that if Mason was able to make the shot there would be enough time left on the clock to get at least one more good look for a game-winner if needed. Fortunately, we were able to grab a rebound and get a tip on the last play of the game.”
Both teams had a hard time putting the ball in the basket with any consistency. Langford Area held a 13-10 lead after one quarter and a 19-16 lead at the half. The Panthers drew to within two points at 28-26 after three quarters.
The Panthers trailed 34-31 with two minutes to play. Tucker Kraft scored his only basket of the game at the 2:01 mark to draw the Panthers to within one. Harrison drilled a three-pointer with 1:20 left to make the score 36-34 and give the Panthers their first lead since 8-6 with 3:49 left in the first quarter. Langford Area took the lead back with 47 seconds left on a conventional three-point play by Colin Frey, setting up the late-game heroics.
Pay Pay led the Panthers with 14 points. Harrison scored nine and Trey Bollinger scored seven. While Tucker Kraft and Isaac Kraft combined for just two points, they took care of a Panther 42-30 rebounding edge with 13 and 12 rebounds, respectively.
Larson led Langford Area with 15 points. Frey scored 10 points, while Ryan Punt added seven points and nine rebounds.
After Sully Buttes had beaten Timber Lake by 30 points in mid-January, the Panthers made the eventual state champions work and work very hard for a 62-53 win in the opening round on Thursday.
In fact, the Panthers were within one point at 51-50 with 2:10 to play before Charger Nick Wittler took over with seven straight points to give Sully Buttes the lead and then the Chargers hit their free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
Despite the loss, it was a game that proved the Panthers were a team to be reckoned with in the tournament.
“I don’t feel like we ever questioned if we belonged there,” said Lawrence. “We had just never been in that sort of environment. We had a few jitters early on offensively but settled in during the second half.”
It did not seem as though either team would approach their final numbers in the first half. Sully Buttes scored the first six points and Timber Lake the last five points of the first quarter to make it 6-5. Sully Buttes scored the first 10 points of the second quarter and the Panthers scored the last seven to make the score 16-12 at the half.
The Panthers trailed 26-20 midway through the third quarter before Pay Pay hit two straight long bombs to tie the game. The Chargers led 32-29 when Bollinger drilled a trey to tie the game again. The Chargers led 35-32 when Tucker Kraft launched a shot from just over half-court that snapped the net as the buzzer sounded, tying the game at 35-35.
Timber Lake forged a 48-46 lead on a Harrison three with 3:30 to play, but the Chargers answered with 6’9” Lincoln Jordre hitting two straight shots and a free throw. Wittler followed with his seven straight points as the Chargers made 11 of 13 free throws in the final two minutes.
Pay Pay led the Panthers with a game-high 21 points. Tucker Kraft scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Bollinger added five points.
Jordre led four Chargers in double figures with an 18-point, 10-rebound, double-double. Jacob Howard scored 13 points and grabbed nine boards. Devan Kleven scored 17 and Wittler scored 11.
Following the tournament, Pay Pay and Tucker Kraft were named to the All-Tournament Team. They were joined by Jordre and Howard of Sully Buttes, Carlson of Canistota, Larson of Langford Area, Jacob Prouty and Ntai Stevens of Clark/Willow Lake, Sawyer Schultz and Carter Dye of Bridgewater-Emery, Teron Sazue of White River and Kevin Peterson of Lower Brule.
On Pay Pay: “Brayden has played outstanding all year,” said Lawrence. “The things he did in the tournament were things that he has done all year, we just needed more of it due to the caliber of teams that we faced this weekend.”
On Kraft: “Tucker played great all weekend,” said Lawrence. “His ability to score and rebound against some very talented bigs helped us stay competitive throughout the weekend.”
Lawrence added that the spark provided by Isaac Kraft, the defense and long-range shooting of Harrison, and “the little things that nobody sees,” provided by Bollinger, plus the bench being “superb” played huge roles in the teams’ success and their teammates’ post-tourney honors.
“As a coaching staff we couldn’t have asked for more and couldn’t be any prouder of them,” said Lawrence.
With the entire team coming back next year, there is an encore performance waiting in the wings.
“It sure was an exciting year,” said Lawrence. “We now know what it takes in order for them to have success in the future and that’s huge for our program.”
Timber Lake (21-4) 19 33 47 64
Canistota (21-5) 14 25 39 52
Timber Lake: Trey Bollinger 1 0-1 2, Jackson Harrison 4 0-0 11, Isaac Kraft 4 0-2 9, Tucker Kraft 7 0-0 14, Brayden Pay Pay 10 4-8 28, Totals 26 4-11 64.
Canistota: Jared Tieszen 1 0-0 2, Trey Ortman 3 0-1 7, Tyce Ortman 3 4-6 10, Scott Jolley 0 2-4 2, Connor Carlson 10 2-2 22, Jordan Lee 4 0-0 9, Totals 21 8-13 52.
3-point field goals: Timber Lake 8 (Pay Pay 4, Harrison 3, I. Kraft); Canistota 2 (Trey Ortman, Lee). Rebounds: Timber Lake 31 (T. Kraft 9, Bollinger 6, I. Kraft 6, Pay Pay 5); Canistota 33 (Carlson 14). Assists: Timber Lake 10 (I. Kraft 4); Canistota 13 (Jolley 7). Steals: Timber Lake 10 (I. Kraft 3, Pay Pay 3); Canistota 8 (Tyce Ortman 4). Fouls: Timber Lake 15; Canistota 18. Turnovers: Timber Lake 19; Canistota 20.
Langford Area (19-6) 13 19 28 37
Timber Lake (20-4) 10 16 26 38
Langford Area: Logan Block 0 0-0 0, Dylan Frey 0 0-0 0, Colin Frey 4 1-3 10, Mason Larson 7 1-3 15, Ryan Punt 3 1-4 7, Bryce Peterson 2 1-2 5, Totals 16 4-10 37.
Timber Lake: Trey Bollinger 3 0-0 7, Jackson Harrison 3 0-0 9, Isaac Kraft 0 0-1 0, Tucker Kraft 1 0-0 2, Brayden Pay Pay 4 4-4 14, Beau DuBray 2 0-0 4, Taylor Goldade 1 0-0 2, Totals 14 4-5 38.
3-point field goals: Langford Area 1 (C. Frey); Timber Lake 6 (Harrison 3, Pay Pay 2, Bollinger). Rebounds: Langford Area 30 (Punt 9, Block 6, Larson 6); Timber Lake 42 (T. Kraft 13, I. Kraft 12, Pay Pay 5). Assists: Langford Area 8 (Block 3, Larson 3); Timber Lake 4 (I. Kraft 2). Steals: Langford Area 7 (Larson 4); Timber Lake 4 (I. Kraft 2). Fouls: Langford Area 13; Timber Lake 18 (Bollinger out). Turnovers: Langford Area 7; Timber Lake 14.
Timber Lake (19-4) 5 12 35 53
Sully Buttes (23-1) 6 16 35 62
Timber Lake: Trey Bollinger 2 0-0 5, Jackson Harrison 1 0-0 3, Isaac Kraft 1 0-0 2, Tucker Kraft 9 0-0 19, Brayden Pay Pay 7 2-4 21, Taylor Goldade 1 1-1 3, Totals 21 3-5 53.
Sully Buttes: Jacob Howard 6 1-4 13, Lincoln Jordre 5 8-11 18, Devan Kleven 5 4-5 17, Cameron Ogle 1 0-0 3, Nick Wittler 3 5-5 11, Jett Lamb 0 0-2 0, Totals 20 18-27 62.
3-point field goals: Timber Lake 8 (Pay Pay 5, Bollinger, Harrison, T. Kraft); Sully Buttes 4 (Kleven 3, Ogle). Rebounds: Timber Lake 15 (T. Kraft 8); Sully Buttes 43 (Jordre 10, Howard 9, Lamb 7). Assists: Timber Lake 11 (I. Kraft 4, Harrison 3); Sully Buttes 15 (Howard 5, Wittler 4). Steals: Timber Lake 3; Sully Buttes 2. Fouls: Timber Lake 20 (Bollinger, Goldade out); Sully Buttes 12, Turnovers: Timber Lake 10; Sully Buttes 15.