If you had walked into the Sully Buttes High School gymnasium on Friday night, March 6, you might have thought it was a home game for the Battlers at first glance because so many people from Potter County showed up wearing red. This sea of red was cascading on the shores of Onida because it was “The Game” to decide who would be moving on to the Class B SoDak 16 boys contest – the steppingstone to the Class B State Boys Basketball Tournament in Aberdeen on March 19-21.
Even though Battler Nation was a major force by its considerable presence in the stands on this foreign battlefield, the boys wearing purple mounted a formidable attack right from the beginning of the contest to stymie the boys wearing red. Sully Buttes started their scoring barrage almost immediately when their big gun, Nick Wittler, threw in a 3-point bomb following the jump ball. This sharpshooter netted 11 points all by himself in the opening set, with Jett Lamb adding 4 as well.
As for Potter County, if not for Dylan Drew getting 5 points, things could have been worse than they were for our boys in this opening period. The only other Battler to contribute a blow to the Chargers was Kayden Ahlemeier, who literally muscled in a tough basket right under the basket. When Kayden got in his haymaker of a punch there were at least a couple of Chargers draped all over him. Thus, the first quarter ended with a score of 15 to 7, and much to the dismay of the Red Faithful, the Battlers had the lesser number.
Following the break, the Battlers shifted gears and started playing their game – fast, loose, and throwing in Howitzers that not only rocked the Chargers but Red Nation back to life. When the Battlers finally caught fire, they were spectacular. Both Cooper Logan and Seth Sharp netted a 2-point shot, Dylan Drew contributed one point from the free-throw line, and Grant Luikens got a bucket and an old fashioned 3-point play as well. Even big Kayden Ahlemeier nailed a 3-point shot straight away that put Sully Buttes on notice this was not going to be an easy fight. They had a 12 to 3 point run on the Chargers near the end of the second quarter to put fear in the host team’s eyes. Even though it was obvious the Chargers were shaken they did not stop fighting because Nick Wittler had a couple of baskets and Grant Johnson added a bucket and a 3-point bomb as well, and even Jett Lamb got a bunny, too. So, the Chargers were able to add a total of 11 points to their score, which still allowed them to keep the lead when the first half expired – 26 to 23.
The third quarter was the highest scoring quarter of the match – Sully Buttes added 15 more points, but Potter County bettered them with 19. The biggest factor of this turn-around was the boys holding Nick Wittler to 7 points. Unfortunately, with most of their attention being given to Wittler, Grant Johnson snuck in and got 8 points, which kept the barn-burning game a burning.
The boys in red came about this besting of their opponents by having four of their players contribute to tickling the twine as compare to only Wittler and Johnson scoring buckets for the Chargers. Potter County’s scoring attack came from Drake Bassett and Seth Sharp each getting a layup, Dylan Drew fighting hard to add 7 points, and Grant Luikens flying around to get 8 points. This surge in scoring by both teams had the old Sully Buttes gym on fire – the actual room temperature did rise so high that people in the stands were literally sweating from all their jumping around and yelling to encourage their boys on to victory. With all this heat radiating from the stands, the Purple Gang might have been suffering from heart palpitations, too, because the scoreboard showed that Potter County had the lead when the third quarter ended – 42 to 41.
In the final bracket, things took a quick turn for the worse almost immediately for Potter County because Nick Wittler drained a 3-point shot right away and after that the Battlers could never regain the lead. Whereas, four Battlers all scored 2 points apiece in this last quarter, Nick Wittler took over and scored 18 points all by himself. Wittler was a wrecking ball that the Battlers did not have an answer for. Thus, when the curtain fell on this game the score was 52 to 59, meaning the Chargers were advancing on and the Battlers had to retreat and regroup for next season.
One last point, only three Chargers made any baskets throughout this entire game. Jett Lamb had 6 points, Grant Johnson had 13 points, and Nick Wittler had 40 points. It was expected that Jett Lamb was going to be the mighty force for the Chargers, but in reality, it was Nick Wittler who single-handedly stomped out the Battlers’ hopes and dreams to make an appearance in Aberdeen when this basketball season finally concluded. And the reason why Jett Lamb did not emerge as the hero of this contest was because Kayden Ahlemeier gave this mighty man all he could handle the entire 32 minutes of this game.
There is no doubt that Dylan Drew and Grant Luikens should be given accolades for both getting 15 points apiece on this last night of Battler ball but again, it was Kayden’s tough blue-collar work in the trenches that was most notable.
Stats: Battlers: Drake Bassett – 2, Cooper Logan – 4, Ethan Pitlick – 5, Seth Sharp – 4, Dylan Drew – 15, Grant Luikens – 15, Kayden Ahlemeier – 7. Chargers: Grant Johnson – 13, Jett Lamb – 6, Nick Wittler – 40.