A sharpshooting display broke out at the exact same time as a no-holds-barred fight on the same 4,700 square feet of basketball court at W.F. West, and the result was a wire-to-wire thriller of a 2A EvCo matchup that Black Hills took 67-66 over the Bearcats on Wednesday.
“That was a really fun game,” Black Hills coach Jeff Gallagher said. “Both teams just made shot after shot. Each answered each other, we all had our mini-runs, and luckily we had the last one.”
On the outside, the two teams combined for 20 3-pointers, shooting at a 50% clip from beyond the arc. Down low, it took over three quarters for the fifth foul to be called, and the Wolves went the entire game without taking a free throw.
The lead never got beyond eight points in either direction, and there were five ties and 12 lead changes throughout the night as the two sides hammered at each other, back and forth.
“It had that district feel, of a battle,” WFW coach Chris White said.
Thirty minutes and 30 seconds into the game, there was nothing to separate the Wolves and Bearcats, tied 62-62, and what followed was a small-scale version of the night for both sides. Taking the ball into the half-court, W.F. West missed its first shot, but 6-foot, 11-inch center Soren Dalan reached over two opponents to grab the offensive rebound, and put the ball back up to give the hosts the lead. Right back down the floor the Wolves went, finding Harrison Pilon with a half-inch of space in the corner for a go-ahead 3-pointer.
With the clock winding down, the physical nature that W.F. West had thrived on early came back to bite the Bearcats; with few fouls being called for the first 15 minutes of the quarter, they found themselves needing to foul six times in the final 30 seconds to get the Wolves into the bonus.
Down 67-66 with 12 seconds left, W.F. West managed to force a turnover to get the ball back, but on its ensuing possession, the Wolves tied up Gage Brumfield down the baseline, taking over and snuffing out the Bearcats’ last good chance.
Pilon, who White said barely featured on the Bearcats’ scouting report coming into the night, hit eight 3-pointers en route to a game-high 30 points.
“He’s been chomping at the bit to get his opportunity,” Gallagher said. “We felt that they would go zone on us tonight, which they did after they didn’t last game. So we told Harrison to be ready, and boy, he was ready.”
Four of those triples came in a red-hot second quarter, and two more came within the first minute of the third. Pilon cooled off a bit to end the third quarter, but Johnnie Stallings picked up the slack with an 8-0 run in the final 1:36, punctuated by a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer.
And when Black Hills needed clutch, it turned back to Pilon in the fourth, first for an NBA-range pull-up triple to tie the game at 62-62, and then for the go-ahead bucket with under a minute left.
Stallings finished with 18 points of his own; as a team, Black Hills 13 for 25 from beyond the arc.
Dalan posted a 25-point, 14-rebound double-double, and also came away with a pair of blocks to break the W.F. West career record of 133, previously held by Brandon White.
“He did a really good job,” Chris White said. “We did a good job of feeding him for the most part.”
Tyler Klatush added 20 points, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter and finishing with four on the night, and Parker Eiswald had 10 points and eight boards.
Black Hills burst out of the gate hot on defense, forcing seven turnovers in the first quarter and turning them into eight points in transition. The Bearcats finished with 13 turnovers, and while they didn’t struggle with the full-court press the way they did in the teams’ first meeting up north, the Wolves’ half-court look gave them some issues.
“We have a unique half-court defense, and teams aren’t used to going against it,” Gallagher said. “It can lead to some errant passes here and there.”
W.F. West came back with a quick flurry to cut the lead down to one by the end of the quarter, then did the same in the second quarter, ending on a 6-2 run to make it a two-point game. In the third, the Bearcats pulled a 12-2 run to take a four-point lead, before Stallings’ run flipped it to a four-point deficit for the hosts.
“We’d come down and hit a shot, and then they’d come down and hit a shot,” Gallagher said. “I’d just turn to the coaches, smile, and say, ‘Alright, this is a fun basketball game.’”
Black Hills’ second win of the season over W.F. West all but assures that the Bearcats will take the 2A EvCo’s third overall seed into the District IV tournament. The Wolves, meanwhile, are still alive in the race for the league title, which will come down to their matchup at Tumwater next Tuesday.
“That’s what we talked about before the game: if things went well tonight, all of the goals that we set out before the season started would still be in front of us,” Gallagher said. “We’ll enjoy this one tonight, until 2:30 at practice tomorrow, and then get back to work.”