BY CHAD DARE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — BISMARCK — The third time was the charm for the Salt Fork Storm, unfortunately that third attempt came after the buzzer.
Bismarck-Henning claimed its first Christmas tournament title since 2006 with a 36-35 victory over Salt Fork in the championship game of the BSN Classic at Bismarck-Henning High School on Saturday.
The Storm’s Cole Taylor and Max Stutsman had shots for the victory in the final seconds, but each one rolled off the rim and Stutsman’s second tip, which went through the basket, came after the buzzer had sounded — even though it was extremely hard to hear because of the excitement of both fan bases.
“You can’t ask for better looks,’’ said Salt Fork coach Andrew Johnson. “We got the look that we wanted. Sometimes, that mental clock can come back to haunt you and we might have rushed things a little bit.
“But , I don’t feel bad about the kids that took the shots. And, I don’t feel bad about the way we executed it. The ball just didn’t fall and that happens.’’
The Storm (9-4) got their final shots at the victory thanks in large part to five miscues by the Blue Devils in the final 1 minute, 16 seconds.
“We tried to give it away,’’ said a relieved Bismarck-Henning coach Jon Clapp. “Those final five second was like an eternity.’’
Clapp said he had flashbacks to last year’s Vermilion County Tournament when Bismarck-Henning lost to Westville on a last-second basket.
“It was the same-type of situation, where the ball was fumbled around and they put it in,’’ he said. “This time around, the ball stayed out of the basket.’’
Bismarck-Henning’s five offensive missteps in the final minute including three turnovers, while senior Andy Bott and sophomore Dylan Allen, both missed the front ends of one-and-ones during that stretch as well.
“If we would have hit those free throws, it would have given us a little bigger cushion,’’ Clapp said. “Those are our two best free-throw shooters and they have to hit those in that situation.’’
Bott, who finished with a team-high 12 points, admitted the Blue Devils should have never been in a position to lose the game on a last-second shot.
“We’ve got to work on our free throws for those late-game situations,’’ he said. “We usually make them in practice, but we didn’t tonight and that’s something we need to learn from.’’
The senior guard also acknowledged that Taylor, who led all scorers with 18 points, got behind him for that attempted game-winning basket.
“Our hearts stopped when those shots went up,’’ said Bott. “We knew it would either go to Cole (Taylor) or (Ross) Learned for that final shot.’’
Bott wound up playing a key role in the Blue Devils turning a 19-14 halftime deficit into a 36-32 lead with 2:16 left in the contest.
“In the second half, we just turned up our defense,’’ said Bott, who scored 10 second-half points. “We knew we just had to get one stop at a time and the offense would come.’’
Bismarck-Henning (13-0) scored 15 points in the third quarter, Bott had seven, to take the lead away from Salt Fork.
“You can’t complain about holding a team to 36 points, but they made the key scores,’’ Johnson said. “Andy Bott stepped up and made some big plays.’’
Both teams came away for Saturday’s championship game with a positive outlook.
“We haven’t really played any close games this year until tonight,’’ Clapp said. “I was looking forward to this game, because I knew it would be a tight, tough game.’’
Johnson echoed those sentiments, wishing that his team had an extra second for that third shot attempt.
“There are some things that we need to work on,’’ he said. “We ultimately needed to execute better. Give Bismarck credit for making enough plays at the end.’’
Stutsman, who finished with nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds, was the co-MVP of the Heritage Pool, while Learnard (8 points) and Taylor also make the all-tournament team.
North Vermillion 68, Decatur Lutheran 57
Corey Davis and Devon Sams were each 6-for-6 from the field as the Falcons raced past the Lions in the third-place game.
“Christmas came late this year for those guys,’’ joked North Vermillion coach Sam Karr. “Seriously, both of those guys had excellent shot selection. Davis has a really good shot and Sams is one of those guys that always seems to be in the right place at the right time.’’
Davis finished with 17 points, while Sams had 14 to go along with a team-high nine rebounds. Cody Wright had a game-high 21 points, including making 8-of-8 free throws, sixth straight in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
North Vermillion bounced back after suffering back-to-back losses on Friday (to Oakwood and Bismarck-Henning) to get the third-place trophy.
“As I said on Friday, I was really pleased with our effort in the game against Bismarck,’’ Karr said. “We had a talk last night and I kind of knew, we would get another good effort from these guys. What I didn’t know was that we were going to get that kind of execution.
“That’s probably the best that we’ve played this year.’’
The Falcons (7-3) shot a very nice 60 percent (24-of-40) from the field and they built a 22-5 first quarter lead by making 10-of-12 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers. Jacob Earl had a big role in North Vermillion’s play as he had seven points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals in the victory.
“When Jacob Earl let me know earlier today that he would be able to play, I had a good feeling,’’ said Karr as Earl was one of four North Vermillion players dealing with the flu this week. “He give us a little extra spark when he’s on the floor.’’
Decatur Lutheran got within six points midway through the fourth quarter, but the Lions missed a pair of free throws and layup on back-to-back possessions. That’s when Wright took over at the free-throw line.
Senior Brayden Woodard had nine points and he was named the MVP of the Bismarck-Henning pool.
Schlarman 69, Heritage/Villa Grove 54
The Hilltoppers capped their tournament with three victories as they defeated the Hawks in the seventh-place game.
Michael Simmons and Ben Watson shared game-high scoring honors for Schlarman with 17 points each. Simmons scored 10 of his in the first quarter as the Hilltoppers built a 22-10 lead and Watson scored 11 in the third quarter.
Also scoring in double figures for the Hilltoppers was Chris Kuchefski with 12 points to go along with 10 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
Heritage/Villa Grove had three players in double digits with Chance Lemmon having a team-high 14, followed by Brandon Koberlein with 12 and Jordan Wolf had 11.
Schlarman’s Gannon Hughes, who had four points on Saturday, was selected to the all-tournament team.
Watseka 56, Georgetown-Ridge Farm 45
The Warriors had three players in double figures in their win over the Buffaloes in the ninth-place game.
Justin Moyer had a game-high 12 points for Watseka, while Cole Davenport and Will Lyznicki each chipped in with 11.
Georgetown-Ridge Farm’s Dylan Bina scored nine of his team-high 10 points in the first half, while Rylee Goodwin and Tyson Reed each had nine in the losing cause.
Oakwood 70, Urbana JV 65
Parker Lee scored a game-high 29 points to lead the Comets past the Tigers in the 11th-place game.
Lee, a 6-foot-3 junior for Oakwood, scored 11 in the first quarter and he made 7-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. He was also chosen for the all-tournament team.
Jeremy Watson was the only other Comet to score in double figures as he finished with 10 points.
Richard Johnson led Urbana with 27 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter as the Tigers outscored the Comets 26-13.