ABERDEEN, S.D. (KELO) — The De Smet Bulldogs are headed back to the class ‘B’ state championship game following a 56-44 win over Viborg-Hurley on Friday, March 19.
The Bulldogs reached the last state title game which was back in 2019. Following the canceled state tournaments in 2020, De Smet got their opportunity and they took advantage.
“It feels great for the guys to get that done and have so much energy in that game,” De Smet head coach Jeff Gruenhagen said. “It took us a while to get going, but they really worked hard.”
Viborg-Hurley came out strong in the first half. The Cougars shot 40% and slowed down the pace of the game. That combination helped Viborg-Hurley grab a 19-10 lead.
“We were pretty tentative early and they (Viborg-Hurley) were stepping in front of some of our cuts and being physical on that,” Gruenhagen said. “Viborg-Hurley hit several threes in that first half and it kind of gets on us that we have to score, but I told them to just remain patient and those baskets will come. We had to keep doing what we were doing and keep playing defense.”
The Bulldogs finally found their rhythm midway through the second quarter as they closed the half on a 17-6 run.
Much of that success came off the bench as the 6’7 sophomore, Damon Wilkinson, went into the halftime locker room with a game-high 11 points.
“We knew we could go to that. They were hugging us kind of tight at the three point line and so we threw it into Damon and he sure did his job by putting them right in for us and he just really worked hard,” Gruenhagen said.
In the third quarter, De Smet began to create some separation as their standout junior, Kalen Garry, added 10 points in the quarter alone.
“They bottled him up for a little bit and then he started to get into the flow,” Gruenhagen said. “He’s the one who wants it in the huddle and we’re sure going to draw something up for him and get him off the screen. If you’re going to keep him from getting to the rim, that’s the danger with him as he is just going to pull up and shoot it.”
Garry would finish the game with a game high 24 points and five rebounds.
De Smet will now move on to face either #6 Dell Rapids St. Mary or #7 Aberdeen Christian.
“It doesn’t matter which team we get, we’ll just adjust to whoever we get and game plan from there,” Gruenhagen said. “They are kind of a similar team. They’re physical, they’ve got some good guards and so it is going to be another game like tonight.”