Potter County had its first taste of March Madness when they played their first playoff game on Tuesday, March 3 against the Ipswich Tigers. After losing to this same team just 12 days earlier by the score of 73 to 67 in the old Greyhound stadium in Hoven, the rematch had captured the community’s collective anticipation and wonderment to find out if this game was going to be a repeat or reckoning. Prior to Tip Off, the Gettysburg High School gym had filled up with a good size crowd making noise, the GHS band playing so loud people had to yell to be heard, the Ipswich cheerleaders were demanding even more noise, and the one true thing that made this a classic basketball night was the smell of buttered popcorn permeating every crack and crevice of the gym. This ambience, indeed, set the stage to determine who was moving on and who would go home whispering, “We’ll get them next year.”
The magnitude of this playoff was not lost on the coaches either. Both Coach Severson and Coach Hall had expressed their wish to have a better game out of their prospective players on this first night of the playoffs because if not, their opponents would end their season and worse, crush their dreams that they had for their boys. It was ironic that both coaches had basically the same “game plan” to stop each other. They said the keys to winning were to play good defense, take care of the ball, better shot selection, and play their game. So, when the man in the striped shirt threw up the ball there was an explosion, and then after playing 32 minutes of exciting South Dakota high school boys’ basketball the Battlers emerged victorious by a score of 66 to 56.
This game was fast moving, had both inside and outside scoring, and the play of the both teams brought their cheering fans to their feet time-and-time again. There were 10 lead changes and one tie. The only tie came right at the end of the third quarter. It was not until the final lead changed in the fourth quarter that the Battlers finally stomped down the Tigers’ threat to take this game away from them.
In the first quarter, Kayden Ahlemeier muscled in two points right underneath the basket to break open the scoring for Potter County and the game. Coach Hall wanted consistency from his squad, and he got it because also scoring in the opening quarter was Cooper Logan – 5 points, Seth Sharp – 2 points, Dylan Drew – 2 points, and Grant Luikens – 2 points. As for the boys from the north, Ipswich senior guard, Will Kadlec netted a 3-pointer, two field goals, and one free throw to total 8 points for the Tigers. The only other Tiger to score in the first period was Jordan Richardt and he dropped in a 3-pointer, too. When the horn finally sounded to end the first quarter and give everyone in the gym a breather, the score board read 13 to 11 in favor of the home team.
Just like the first quarter, the second quarter was full of excitement by both teams playing wide-open basketball with only a few fouls being assessed to either team. Again, the Battlers were consistent. Drake Bassett had 5 points, Cooper Logan 2 points, Dylan Drew 3 points, Grant Luikens 2 points, and big Kayden Ahlemeier added another tough basket under the rim as well. Defensively, Dylan Drew had a massive block on Ipswich’s big man, Eric Severson in this second period, but it was his dunk that set the crowd rocking.
For the Tigers, they were again carried single handedly by their senior guard, Will Kadlec. This shooting specialist dropped in three 3-pointers, one field goal, and two free-throws for a total of 13 points. The only other Tiger to score in the second quarter was Eric Severson and he only managed to contribute one field goal. Thus, with the teams trading buckets in both the first two periods of play, the first half came to an end with a score of 27 to 26, with Potter County holding the one-point edge.
With Tigers’ Will Kadlec already having 21 total points to start the second half it was anticipated that Coach Hall would adjust his defense in the third period to try and slow down this one-man band. With all the running and shooting, it proved difficult for the boys in the red and white to corral this Tiger because he basically kept pace with the Battlers all by himself. He scored 8 more points to bring his total up to 29 for the game, but more importantly, it finally looked like things were improving for Ipswich because three other Tigers contributed in this quarter as well – Matt Hettich and Ethan Gilbert both dropped in a 3-pointer and Eric Severson added a bucket underneath.
In the Feb. 20 match, Potter County adjusted their offense and start pounding the ball inside during the third quarter to make a surge to get back into the game. But in this game and in this third quarter, Cooper Logan turned up the pressure with his outside shooting to make this period the second-best part of this Tuesday night show. What made this third set so entertaining was there were seven lead changes in this quarter alone. And when the dust settled the period ended with each team having 42 points apiece, which was the first and only tie of the game.
When the fourth quarter started, it was Grant Luikens splashing in a long 3-point shot to break the tie and let the faithful believe there was more to come – much more. And it did because Cooper Logan led the way in this finality by netting 11 points to finally put the game out of reach for the Tigers. But what really took the last breath of hope out for the Tigers was the Battlers’ defense finally successfully shutting down Mr. Will Kadlec to end his being Ipswich’s superman. All he got in this last period of play was three points and that was off a 3-point shot. Curtailing his scoring was indeed the key because this young man walked off the floor with 32 points for the game – over half of Ipswich’s total.
As for Potter County, Cooper Logan again got 11 points, and his fellow teammates added 13 as well (Grant Luikens – 9 points and Dylan Drew – 4 points) to give the hometown boys a grand total of 24 points in this last quarter. All the Tigers could muster was 14. So, the best part of this Tuesday night show was the Battlers won 66 to 56, which sent the Tigers packing with their tails tucked and the boys wearing red and white moving onto the next round of the playoffs for Region 2B.
Stats: Battles: Drake Bassett – 5, Cooper Logan – 24, Seth Sharp – 7, Dylan Drew – 9, Grant Luikens – 15, Kayden Ahlemeier – 6. Tigers: Will Kadlec – 32, Matt Hettich – 3, Ty Kadlec – 6, Jordan Richardt – 9, Eric Severson – 4, Max Geditz – 2.