Friday's nail-biting, third-round victory (42-39) against Deubrook Area in the Region 3B Boys Basketball Tournament catapulted the Spartans into the SoDak 16, where the boys are set to take on Canistota tonight at 8 p.m. at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Wessington Springs is hoping to earn a trip to the state tournament — a win tonight would mark the first time the Spartans were state-bound since 1994.
Studying Friday’s contest against Deubrook, Spartans Head Coach Joey Mitchell weighs in on the razor-thin victory.
“It was a close win, we didn’t start off very hot,” said Mitchell. “From my perspective, we gave up on some things a little early, we were ‘floating,’ hanging out toward the perimeter.”
But he’s quick to point out that the Spartans regrouped and several key players stepped up in the second quarter leading Mason Schelske to post an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double. Tyler Kole added 10 points and seven rebounds.
“Mason (Schelske) stepped up big in the second quarter and didn’t miss a free throw,” Mitchell said. “Cooper Hainy also did a nice job stepping up and Dylan (Schimke), Blake (Larson), Lane (Olinger) and Cade (Mohling) played big time minutes. It was unfortunate that Jacob (Messmer) had some tough fouls calls. If you were to tell me that we’d win with Messmer only having three points, I would have said no way.”
A key to the season’s success, Mitchell’s defensive philosophy, once again proved to be vital to the win.
“The guys bought into the defensive thing. If you can hold a team to 39 points you’re going to do ok,” he said, adding that on offense, the team shot 27% for the game.
“Tyler (Kole) made some game-winning plays on defense and had a big shot right before the half,” Mitchell added. “I am grateful we were able to sneak it out in the end.”
As for tonight’s match up against Canistota, the No. 2 seed in Class B, Mitchell compares the team to a combination of Lower Brule and Wolsey-Wessington.
“Offensively they put up numbers and get up and down the court a lot. With their physicalness and speed, they finish a lot of plays. They’re a little undersized but they don’t play like it,” said Coach Mitchell of the Spartan’s opponent.
Heading into tonight’s SoDak 16 contest, Mitchell said the key is for the Spartans to get off to a strong start.
“The guards are in for a long night of a lot of ball pressure, guys in our face, trying to make us cough it up,” explained Mitchell. “Those two guys in the middle will be able to get to it but the guards will have to get the ball down the court. We are going to have to have a big night."
Leading up to today, Mitchell said he is grateful for the community’s support of the team, adding that he hasn’t eaten at home the past three nights because dozens of area folks have bought the team meals over the past several weeks — which has led to a new team tradition consisting of bacon cheeseburgers and fries from Springs Inn Cafe.
“Before the Wolsey game, my father-in-law bought the team bacon cheeseburgers and fries, arranging the whole thing with Carla (Niemeyer who owns the Springs Inn with husband Jon),” Mitchell explained. “We won that game and then won again the next time a community member bought us bacon cheeseburgers and fries. It evolved into something — we’ve had them now before each playoff game, and had them again last night. I guess when it comes down to it, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”
In addition to feeding the team their lucky meal, Mitchell thanks the community and Spartan fans for their support all season and at last Fridays victory against Deubrook.
“When you get a slow start, it’s usually tough to get the crowd going but the community stuck in there the whole time,” he said. “You could really hear the fans. I gotta tip my hat to them from the Deubrook game —the guys couldn’t hear a word I said because the crowd was so loud.”
Mitchell hopes to see the stands full of hometown fans again tonight.
“We can’t wait to see you for the fun tonight — thanks for coming out and supporting our Spartans.”