Friday's matchup between the Dickinson Trinity boys basketball team and Glen Ullin-Hebron featured two of the stronger defenses in Region 7.
Both teams rebounded well, stole the ball, and forced less-than-ideal shots. Each team collected 37 rebounds and a pair of steals and committed eight or fewer turnovers. The game came down to whoever shot better in the end.
On 43.5 percent shooting in the second half, the Titans earned the 43-37 victory on Friday, Feb. 8, at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center.
Scoring all but two of his team's points in the final frame, sophomore guard Cole Fitterer came up clutch, playing a decisive role in his team's victory. Fitterer scored 10 of his 12 points in the final eight minutes, starting just 10 seconds in with a foul-drawing drive to the basket.
"Coach drew up a play and he had (senior forward) Aric (Knopik) come and set a screen for me, and he said, 'Don't use the screen. Just get around him and go up with it,' which I did." Fitterer said.
Later, Fitterer followed a pair of missed free throws with another bucket, bringing the score to 36-29 with half a quarter to play.
Glen Ullin-Hebron senior guard Braden Zuroff had an answer each time, keeping the Bearcats in striking distance, but Fitterer wasn't done yet.
With 2:31 left on the clock, he pulled a similar move to his first score of the quarter. After killing some time at the top of the key, senior guard Matt Stafford passed to Fitterer at the top of the circle. After eyeing a screen set by junior Bryant Merry to his right, he bolted left towards the baseline. He drew yet another foul on the shot underneath and his free throw gave the Titans an eight-point advantage, their greatest of the night.
"The biggest thing, is Cole Fitterer got to the rim," Dickinson Trinity head coach Greg Grinsteinner said. "I think that was the difference. He missed some pretty easy ones in the first half, but in the second half, I think all of our guys (improved). They started taking away some of our slipping and we started to make the extra pass. We were patient and allowed the offense to happen."
As the Bearcats (15-4, 8-2 Region 7) fouled the Titans (14-5, 8-1 Region 7) in the waning seconds of the game, Fitterer found himself at the charity stripe again. His back-to-back makes gave him a game-high 12 points, while Stafford followed with 11.
Bearcats senior guard Chase Remboldt, who paced his team with nine points, concluded the scoring with 8.7 seconds remaining.
Remboldt went 4-for-7, while Glen Ullin-Hebron's typical leading scorer, Braden Zuroff went 4-for-17 from the field, struggling with his signature turnaround jumpers under pressure. Zuroff ended the evening with eight points as senior forward Mason Gerving added seven.
Bearcats head coach Greg Pruitt pointed to Trinity's presence inside as a reason for his team's trouble.
"They're pretty big inside. When they got 6'3'' in there, 6'4'', it was changing our guys' shots selection a little bit," he said. "But that's something you know, a game like this, we play it late in the season to help us out and get ready for that regional tournament. We're coming out of this game with confidence. We know that we can play with them."
The beginning of the contest was deceiving, as an opening 3-pointer from Glen Ullin-Hebron senior guard Garrett Soupir and a response from Stafford from deep hinted at a shootout, but that was not the case. At least, not in the second quarter.
While both teams executed man-to-man coverage well, it was paired with passes that sailed out of bounds, steals that turned into travel calls and rebounds that didn't translate into second-chance points. With two foul shots from Fitterer and a put back from junior forward Seth Herner, the Titans tallied just four points, while Glen Ullin-Hebron put away six.
"Both teams I thought played very good defense," Grinsteinner said. "It was tough to get a shot off today. When you talk about getting this late in the year, it's tournament atmosphere and team's are going to play like that. You're not going to get shot after shot after shot. The first three minutes of the game was back and forth but after that I think both teams settled in. Every shot was contested. You had to execute."
Dickinson Trinity 43, Glen Ullin-Hebron 37
GUH 9 6 12 10
THS 15 4 12 12
GUH: Chase Remboldt 9, Braden Zuroff 8, Mason Gerving 7, Dawson Zuroff 6, Garret Soupir 5, Grant Gerving 2.
THS: Cole Fitterer 12, Matthew Stafford 11, Isaac Fridrich 4, Jake Daniel 4, Aric Knopik 4, Cheydan Hauf 2, Seth Hefner 2, Alija Karsky 2, Tanner Soehren 2.
3-pointers: GUH 2-8 (Soupir, Remboldt 1-1), THS 1-9 (Stafford 1-3). Free throws: GUH 5-9, THS 8-15. Total fouls: GUH 17, THS 12. Rebounds: GUH 37 (B. Zuroff 10), THS 37 (Knopik 9). Assists: GUH 2 (B. Zuroff), THS 5 (Bryant Merry, Herner 2). Steals: GUH 2 (D.Zuroff, M. Gerving), THS 2 (Knopik, Stafford). Blocks: THS 1 (Herner). Turnovers: GUH 8, THS 6. Records: GUH 15-4 (8-2 Region 7), THS 14-5 (8-1 Region 7).