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Custer boys basketball guard Nolan Patzlaff said that when you're having a good game, you know.

He admitted he isn't a statistics counter, but said he can tell pretty early on when it's going to be his night.

"When you start hitting your first couple you just start going with that momentum," he said. "I don’t like to do that (count stats), sometimes you do it subconsciously, but you try to focus on the execution of what we’re doing and how the game is going."

Patzlaff had one of those games last Friday, when he went for 26 points from the point guard position in the Wildcats' 68-64 road win against Belle Fourche.

For the young Wildcats, the wins have been few and far between this season. The team has just three upperclassmen, the junior Patzlaff being one of them, and has gone 4-14 this season.

"The three upperclassmen have been pretty good. They knew going in that it was going to be tough, we had some kids move away over the summer," Custer coach Paul Kelley said. "They knew it was going to be tough because we were going to be playing so many young kids but they come to practice, work hard, keep their spirits up and they were excited to get a win last Friday." 

Patzlaff and the rest of his teammates aren't happy with the way the season has gone, but he said he tries to keep his, and his teammates, spirits up.

"Of course we didn’t want to have the season go that way but even after a loss we’re still a team, we still have fun with each other and we still come in every day at practice and work hard on what we need to do," he said. "The maturity is going to help with that, so next year everyone is going to be a year more experienced and that will help.

"It’s still a lot of fun even though we don’t win all the time, and that makes the wins a little more sweeter."

Patzlaff joined the varsity team during his freshman year, and his game has gone through a growth process during that time.

Kelley said he started his career as a backup point guard who didn't play very often, to the team's starting shooting guard who averaged 12 points a game, back to his starting point guard this season where he is averaging 16 points a game.

"He’s grown an awful lot in the three years he’s been here," Kelley said. "He’s kind of our leader on the court. He does a lot of things for us, he can do more, we’re always asking him to do more but we’re pleased with where he’s at."

Patzlaff said the position switching hasn't been a challenge, but he's happy to be at the position he's played most of his life, point guard.

"I grew up playing point guard and I kind of transitioned to playing shooting guard, which was okay because they’re pretty similar spots," he said. "Playing point is a lot more fun for me, getting my teammates involved and having the ball in my hands a lot more and being able to do more things."

During his time he said the biggest change to the game hasn't been his outside shooting or court vision but something more simple: confidence.

"When you’re coming in as a freshman everyone is older than you, faster than you, stronger than you. They kind of push you around," he said. "As you start to get older and get used to how fast the game is you start to gain confidence in what you’re doing and you’re ability."

He has, however, also improved his outside shooting.

Kelley said his point guard is the complete package, with ability to take the ball to the basket and knock down outside shots. He was also 9-of-10 from the free throw line during his 26 point game Friday.

The 5-foot, 8-inch guard said his favorite way to score is still to take the ball to the hoop, where he likes to challenge the guys who are taller than he is.

"It’s a challenge but I’ve been doing that my entire life so I’m kind of used to it by now," he said.

Leadership was another quality that Kelley pointed out when talking about Patzlaff. Even though he is only a junior, he's one of the oldest kids on the team and Kelley said he knows some of the younger kids look up to him.

It's a role Patzlaff has embraced.

"A lot of the freshman, if I see something in practice or during a game, I try to give them a pointer about what to do in that situation," he said. "Obviously I’m not perfect but I’ve been around the game for quite awhile so I kind of know the ins and outs."

Custer travels to Lead-Deadwood Thursday at 7 p.m.

Other athletes considered:

Jaedyn Finkbeiner, New Underwood girls' basketball: In a win over Upton, Wyoming Saturday, Finkbeiner continued her season of double-doubles.

In a 64-27 win, she scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as the Tigers moved to 14-4.

William George, Douglas wrestling: George moved to 38-7 on the season with a win in the 113-pound weight class at the Black Hills Conference Tournament in Hot Springs.

George beat Tristen Fierbach of Spearfish by way of major decision, 12-0.

Aidan Bizardie, Todd County boys' basketball: Bizardie continued his torrid scoring pace, dropping 38 points in a 85-67 loss to Miller Saturday.

Oakley Blakeman, Belle Fourche wrestling: Blakeman took home the BHC 106-pound title over the weekend in Hot Springs, moving to 40-8 on the season.

Blakeman topped Payton DeWitt of Douglas in a major decision, 11-3.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.