It took a total team effort to stymie a totally stellar individual performance on Thursday in the first round of the State B boys' basketball tournament at Wachs Arena.
Eighth-seeded Sully Buttes shocked top seed Hitchcock-Tulare 61-54 in the first game of the tournament. It was the Patriots' first loss of the season and their first loss since they were defeated by White River in last year's state title game on the same Wachs Arena floor.
“We were just ready to go and we wanted to shock the state,” said Sully Buttes senior forward Tate Senftner, who paced the Chargers with 20 points and seven rebounds. “There wasn't a single person out there in that gym that believed that we could do it, expect for the 15 guys in that locker room right there before that game. We knew we were going to do it and we did it.”
The Chargers led 47-36 after the third quarter. The Patriots and especially all-state point guard Joey Mitchell would not go away in the fourth quarter. The 6-foot Mitchell scored 16 of his game-high 32 points in the final eight minutes.
“Joey Mitchell is just excellent,” said Senftner. “We played AAU ball together and I saw him do that all summer.”
Mitchell nailed four of his five three-pointers in the fourth quarter. The Black Hills State recruit scored all but two of the Patriots' 18 points in the final period. He was 10-for-19 from the field and 7-for-8 from the line.
“He was single-handily taking over the game,” Sully Buttes coach Mike Lodmel said. “We were putting two guys on him and we could not stop him.”
Mitchell nailed a three-pointer with 1:20 left and made a pair of free throws to trim the lead to 55-52 with 1:09 left. The Patriots then forced a Chargers turnover with 59 seconds left. However, Mitchell's potential game-tying three-pointer was no good with 52 seconds remaining.
“They got it to a one-possession game, but in the end we were just never able to get it over that hump,” Hitchcock-Tulare coach Kenny Huether said. “Credit Sully Buttes for really putting together a great ball game.”
Jordan Lamb made two free throws to put the Chargers up 57-52 with 46 seconds to go. After Mitchell missed another three-pointer, Senftner and Mitchell Foth made four free throws in the waning moments to secure the win.
“I have got competitors,” Lodmel said. “We preach all the time the regular season is regular season. You have to get your run in the postseason. These kids have bought in. We are really happy right now. This is a great win.”
There were two ties and four lead changes in the first quarter. Mitchell knotted the game up at 17-17 after the first quarter with a three-pointer at the buzzer. It did not phase the Chargers, who went on an 11-5 run in the second quarter to extend their lead to 28-22 at halftime.
“That is the most we struggled to shut down a team this year,” Huether said. “They were very patient with the ball and we couldn't get the defensive stops to get a flow going and get back in control of the game.”
The Chargers built their lead to 38-26 in the third quarter, their biggest of the game. Senftner's step-back three-pointer to beat the third quarter buzzer sent Sully Buttes into the fourth quarter with its 47-36 lead.
Scott Steinhueser was the only other Patriot to score in double figures with 11 points. Hitchcock-Tulare (23-1) will play Canistota at 1 p.m. today in a consolation semifinal. Canistota defeated Hitchcock-Tulare in the Class 9B state football title game this past fall.
Jordan Lamb and Mitchell Foth scored 15 and 12 points respectively. Jalen Lamb added 10 points for the Chargers, who improved to 18-6 on the season.
Sully Buttes will play defending state champion White River at 7 tonight in a championship semifinal game at Wachs Arena. White River defeated Sully Buttes 70-52 earlier this season. It will be the fifth meeting in the past six state tournaments between the two rivals, including the Chargers' thrilling 74-73 win in the 2009 state title game.
SULLY BUTTES: Jalen Lamb 4-4 0-0 10, Tate Senftner 7-14 4-4 20, Jordan Lamb 5-10 3-6 15, Mitchell Foth 5-6 2-2 10, Hayden Handcock 0-1 2-2 2, Tommy Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Nick Lentz 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 21-36 13-16 61.
HITCHCOCK-TULARE: Joey Mitchell 10-19 7-8 32, Petey Binger 0-2 0-1 0, Austin Bushong 1-2 0-0 2, Scott Steinhueser 4-9 0-0 11, Pyne Lenocker 2-7 1-2 5, Jordan Cole 0-1 0-0 0, Josh Bonebright 0-0 0-0 0, Garret Masat 1-2 2-2 4. Totals 18-42 10-12 54.
Sully Buttes (18-6)
17 28 47 61
17 22 36 54
3-point field goals - Sully Buttes 6-10 (Jalen Lamb 2-2, Senftner 2-2, Jordan Lamb 2-2); Hitchcock-Tulare 8-17 (Mitchell 5-9, P. Binger 0-1, Steinhueser 3-7). Total fouls - Sully Buttes 18; Hitchcock-Tulare 18. Fouled out - None. Rebounds - Sully Buttes 24 (Senftner 7); Hitchcock-Tulare 18 (Masat 6). Assists - Sully Buttes 11 (Senftner 3, Jordan Lamb 3, Handcock 3); Hitchcock-Tulare 6 (Mitchell 2, Steinhueser 2). Blocks - Sully Buttes 3 (Senftner 1, Jordan Lamb 1, Handcock 1); Hitchcock-Tulare 6 (Steinhueser 2, Lenocker 2). Steals - Sully Buttes 3 (Senftner 1, Jordan Lamb 1, Handcock 1); Hitchcock-Tulare 6 (Steinhueser 2, Lenocker 2). Turnovers - Sully Buttes 11; Hitchcock-Tulare 8. Officials - Sherm Cutler, Cory Aadland, Matthew Clark.