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Tigers’ journey to end at State

Posted: Friday, Mar 15th, 2013

Tiger Justin Decker goes up for a shot during the regional game last week at Huron Arena. Decker and his teammates will open the Class AA State Tournament in Sioux Falls against Brandon Valley at 1:45 p.m. PHOTO BY MIKE CARROLL/PLAINSMAN

SIOUX FALLS — The Huron boys’ basketball team will be making it seventh appearance in the last 10 years at the Class AA State Tournament, which begins today at the Sioux Falls Arena.

The Tigers have put together a 16-7 record and will enter the three-day event as the No. 4 seed.

“Any time you enter the tournament, No. 1, you’re relieved that you made it to the dance, and No. 2, you have to play the team that is in front of you to win the tournament,” Huron coach Tim Buddenhagen said. “I am very proud of our team and the courage that the guys have displayed to improve upon their weaknesses throughout the year.

“The sign of a good team is the improvement as an individual first and then the collective improvement, because each player got better during the year,” he said. “Our assistants have done an outstanding job with the improvement of our team. I cannot thank coaches Bob DeBoer, Tom Reid, Eric Hall and Chris Rozell enough for all they have done to keep the team progressing forward.”

The trek to the state tournament has been sort of a roller coaster ride for the Tiger. They started the season off with some uncertainty, as Buddenhagen dealt some heart-related health issues.

Huron was a preseason pick to have a strong season and it backed up that prediction by winning four of its first five games. It then hit a rough stretch where it lost two of the next three games before rebounding with a second four-game winning streak.

Following the streak, the Tigers lost two of its next three games before winning four of their final five regular season games.

“Our season has been a long hard-fought journey that began this summer in hopes to have a chance to compete for a state title,” Buddenhagen said. “Any time you can be one of the last eight teams playing in the state tournament it is rewarding. Probably more so this year with the health problems I had at the beginning of the season.

“It takes a community to build a team and we appreciate everyone’s contributions,” he said. “We just hope that we represent Huron in the right way. We want everyone to be proud of the product and players we put on the floor. We cannot thank the city of Huron enough for their support.”

As the No. 4 seed, the Tigers will face the fifth-seed Brandon Valley Lynx in the opening round at 1:45 p.m. today. The two teams finished split in the two-game season series with Huron winning 51-48 in Brandon Valley and the Lynx returning the favor with a 50-40 victory at Huron Arena.

“Brandon Valley is going to be a tough opponent, because they play great defense, do not turn the ball over much and have 3-point scorers who can give them separation,” Buddenhagen said. “In order for us to be successful, we have to match their physicality in the paint and be more determined than they are. We have to be willing to put forth just a little bit more.

“We have done a great job of limiting our turnovers during the postseason and valuing each possession both offensively and defensively,” he said. “In a possession by possession game, there is not much room for error.”

Brandon Valley, which closed the regular season with five straight victories including the win against Huron, carries a 16-6 record into the tournament.

In the other opening round games today, top-seeded Sioux Falls Roosevelt (21-1) will face No. 8 Rapid City Stevens (10-13) at noon; second-seeded Pierre (17-5) will play No. 7 Rapid City Central (10-11) at 6 p.m.; and third-seeded Brookings (17-6) will play No. 6 Sioux Falls Lincoln at 7:45 p.m.

The most recent state title for Huron was in 2004 and it last reached the championship game in 2009.

“I expect us to play our best basketball and then let the chips fall where they may,” Buddenhagen said of the team’s approach to the tournament. :We are going in to it thinking we are the best team, until someone proves us different. We need to outwork teams to get the job done and advance to the next round.”

For the complete article see the 03-14-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-14-2013 paper.

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