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Wilkinson, De Smet pull away from White River in 1 vs. 2 showdown
De Smet's Damon Wilkinson throws down a dunk against White River at the Hanson Classic.
(Rodney Haas / 605 Sports)
Jan 22, 2022

By Ryan Deal 

605 Sports

MITCHELL — In a game that featured all-state guards, post player Damon Wilkinson stood out above the rest. 

Wilkinson, a 6-foot-9 junior center, recorded 27 points and 11 rebounds in No. 1 De Smet’s 63-49 win over No. 2 White River in the nightcap of the 40th annual Hanson Classic at the Corn Palace. 

Wilkinson scored 19 of his 27 in the second half, including 13 in the third quarter as De Smet seized control against the Tigers. 

“We’ve been asking Damon lately to just ‘Be you,’ ” De Smet coach Jeff Gruenhagen said. “ ‘You are that big. Use that size, go in and focus on wanting the ball.’ ”

Wilkinson — especially in the third quarter — used his size to his advantage. He scored 13 of De Smet’s 23 points in the frame as it pulled away for a 48-33 lead.  

“It was more mental in the first half when I missed those,” Wilkinson said. “But in the second half my teammates were cheering me up and so I just kept going.” 

While Wilkinson anchored the post player, all-state guard Kalen Garry scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Tory Holland added eight points, nine rebounds and five assists, while all-state guard Rett Osthus had four points, eight rebounds and six assists. 

White River all-state guard Joe Sayler tossed in a game-high 30 points and grabbed six rebounds. Kendrell Cuevas added 10 points, while Dylan Marshall scored seven points and dished out five assists. 

In the first half, the No. 1 vs. No. 2 contest lived up to the billing in the first half, which featured four lead changes and three ties. 

“I think it was great for our kids,” White River coach Eldon Marshall said. “A lot of our kids, it was their first time being in that atmosphere. It’s great for them to experience that and to experience a great team like that.”

The size and skill of the two top teams was on display in the opening 16 minutes. Sayler showed off his hops with a dunk in the first quarter. Wilkinson threw one down over Sayler -- his AAU teammate -- in the second quarter. The back-and-forth first half was capped by a deep Sayler 3-pointer at the buzzer. 

“It was crazy,” Osthus said. “The one and two teams in the state for B. We knew it was going to be a big game and it was definitely all that. It was exciting for everyone.”

But after Sayler’s deep 3-pointer in the second quarter, the Tigers scored just three field goals in the third quarter and Wilkinson powered the middle for De Smet. 

“The big guy kept catching it in the middle and scoring,” Eldon Marshall said. “That was the big thing there, and if he wasn’t scoring, he was kicking it out and their guards were knocking down threes, too. They got in a rhythm offensively.”

Sayler finished 11 of 32 from the field, including 4 of 14 from the 3-point line. Osthus, along with Kadyn Fast, drew the defensive assignment of guarding Sayler throughout the night. 

“It’s always a challenge,” Osthus said. “He’s a good dude. We are pretty good friends and we are pretty tight that way. So it makes for a good matchup.”

Garry, who along with Sayler will play at South Dakota State University, finished 7 of 14 from the field and 3 of 6 from the 3-point line. He went 7 off 11 at the free-throw line. 

The Tigers will play at Bennett County on Tuesday. The Bulldogs will play at Colman-Egan on Friday.