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    Living up to the hype: White River (just barely) tops James Valley

    The play began innocently enough.

    Wyatt Krogman brought the ball up the court, got to the timeline and lost his balance, falling backwards, landing square on his backside. Somehow keeping the dribble alive, Krogman proceeded to stand up, spinning as he did. The spin move averted a James Valley Christian defender who came flying in attempting to steal the ball. Krogman then drove the lane, drew contact, laid the ball up and in and got the foul called.

    It was one of the more amazing plays in Krogman's storied career and it couldn't have happened in a more perfect setting, against a more perfect opponent, than it did Thursday night.

    Krogman's and-one put the Tigers back up one after Christian's Nathan Wedel made a layup to give the Vikings a 67-65 lead over the top-ranked Tigers.

    That series of plays was a microcosm of how the game played out. Neither team led by more than six at any point in the game and the Tigers held off the second-ranked Vikings 77-74 in a game that very well may have a sequel come the third weekend in March.

    The game, which was scheduled to be played at the Dakota Wesleyan Classic and initially canceled, was a game both coaches wanted their teams to compete in.

    “It was a big priority, I wanted (the game to be played) as much as Coach Hofer,” a raspy and visibly tired Eldon Marshall said. “I wanted to see where we are as a team.”

    James Valley coach Darwin Hofer shared Marshall's sentiments.

    “We just wanted to play a game, we wanted to play a top quality oppponent. To us, we wanted to play a top team and it just happened to be the number one team (in the state).” Hofer said.

    The beginning of the game set the tone for the rest of what would be an evenly-matched fast paced game.

    James Valley came out looking to collapse the lane whenever Krogman would drive, eliminating the savvy senior's driving lanes and forcing him to kick the ball out.

    The problem for James Valley was, however, that whenever Krogman kicked the ball out, Joe Cameron was waiting.

    Cameron scored 20 points including four threes that were the product of the space created by Krogman's drives into the lane.

    “He really stepped up for us, we needed that,” Marshall said. “That's what great teams do, they have players that step up and that's what Joe did for us tonight. It was good to see and we'll need him down the stretch.”

    Cameron finished the game with 34 points, providing crucial buckets for Marshall each time his team needed it. The senior has evolved his game from being simply just a spark plug for the Tigers engine to a full-on offensive V-10 in his own right; a lithe, three point threat with the ability to play in the post and sky above the rest of the mere mortals for rebounds that seem out of reach for anyone not standing on a ladder.

    Andrew Ulvestad was the Cameron to star Adam Hofer's Krogman. The junior big man's exterior epitomized an east river cornfed boy, but his nimble feet and soft touch suggested otherwise. The 6'4 Ulvestad scored 15 points while showcasing his all-around game with tough rebounds, range out to three-point territory and even a slick behind-the-back pass that hit Donnie Decker perfectly in stride for an easy layup.

    “Andrew is the type of player, that when he gets the rebound (he) can take it and go, (he's) got the green light from three, he's got the green light to penetrate, he's got the green light to post up,” Hofer said. “Teams key on Adam (Hofer), we look for Andrew to step up.”

    Still, it was the Tigers that ultimately stepped up in the deciding quarter.

    Cameron was the steadying hand throughout the first three quarters but it was Krogman who came through in the clutch and delivered the biggest buckets of the night.

    Krogman scored 21 second-half points and 11 points in the fourth quarter alone, repeatedly putting the Tigers' fate in his hands.

    “I started to see some things in the defense that I knew I could attack,” Krogman said. “My teammates trust me and I was glad I could make some things happen for us tonight.”

    Coach Hofer gave his star senior guard, Adam Hofer, the assignment to attempt to slow down the Tigers point guard. The results were mixed at best.

    That wasn't the case throughout the whole game.

    Hofer played a tremendous game, finding open teammates by fitting the ball through tiny windows that the average man wouldn't be able to see. Hofer scored 17 points and showed off athleticism and technique that is usually reserved for top talent at the Class AA level.

    And beside the obvious factor of the teams being the top-ranked squads in the state, that's what made this game what it was.

    There were times where Hofer would come down the court, pull off a euro-step move that seemed to defy gravity or whip a no-look pass into traffic and he'd have the look in his eyes that said, Yeah, you might be Wyatt Krogman and you might have the state titles, but tonight, I'm coming for you.

    “Adam's our go-to player,” Hofer said.

    And he played like it.

    While both teams' stars played brilliant, pristine basketball, Krogman proved that once again, if only until the next time they meet, he and his Tigers are still number one in Class B.

    “When it came down to it, we still fought through, we made stops when we needed to,” Marshall

    said. “(James Valley Christian) is a great team”

    And we as spectators could only be so lucky to see these two great teams square off again, come March, on the hardwood-- preferably around 8 pm on Saturday night-- at the Barnett Center.

    And that would the perfect ending to a season that's already seen a near-perfect game. Now, it's just a matter of wait-and-see.

    And perhaps a little hope-and-pray.

    2 Responses

    1. Devin Says:

      -1 dislike

      A great well written impartial write up Nick and by far the best piece that has been on Sports Buzz all season.

      1. C.C. OHarra Says:

        All Hail White River!

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