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The Upton, Wyoming, boys’ basketball team had never won the West River Invitational, and Saturday night it would get a chance to avenge a loss in last year’s title game.

It wasn’t always the prettiest game, but the Bobcats were able to do just that at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Clutch free throw shooting carried the Bobcats to the title, as they topped the Bison 69-63 in overtime.

“It feels good. It’s a different team with a different look and they’re a different team than they were last year,” Upton coach Joel Samualson said. “Our school has never won this so it means a lot for us to come out here, play in three tough games and close in all of them.

“I’m proud of the boys for stepping up and competing. It’s all about learning how to win in tight games. We about messed it up there, but we figured it out.”

Both teams went back and forth in the first quarter, with the Bison ending the first eight minutes leading 19-16, but Upton was able to get some momentum from the free throw line.

Leading 32-25 with two minutes left, Hot Springs was able to make a comeback, but the Bobcats still led 35-30 at the break.

It would be two 3-pointers in the third quarter from Matt Norton that would bring Hot Springs all the way back and give it the lead.

Upton tied the score at 41 and had the ball with the final 14 seconds on the clock in the quarter showing on the clock. When it tried to run a play, however, Morgan Harkless was able to intercept the pass and deliver a contested lay-up as the buzzer sounded.

Harkless finished with 19 points and Hot Springs led 43-41 at the end of the third.

The Bison came into the fourth with some momentum, and stretched the lead to 47-44 with 5:21 to go.

Then it was the Bobcats’ turn to make a run.

A 9-1 run in the next two minutes forced Hot Springs to take a time out trailing 53-48. That lead stretched to 56-48 with less than two minutes to play.

“We just know they’re big and athletic,” Samualson said. “We wanted to use our speed and quickness to pressure them from the outside and keep them from getting inside.”

Then in the final minute, Norton took over for Hot Springs. He sank a 3-pointer, a free throw, and then another 3-pointer to tie the score with 14 seconds remaining.

Upton had a chance to end it in regulation, but a Harkless steal looked like it might end the game, but he was tripped by a Bobcat player. No foul was called and the ball rolled out of his hands and out of bounds. The game went to overtime.

During the overtime Hot Springs took a lead, but more clutch free-throw shooting gave Upton the ball with 16 seconds remaining and leading 66-63, Jess Claycomb was fouled and he stepped to the line, drilling two free throws with ease.

That put the game out of reach, and the title belonged to Upton.

“It’s huge, we’ve been preaching about when adversity hits but we haven’t seen a lot of adversity,” Samualson said. “When adversity hit us this time, for them to bring it back together and stay composed was huge.”

The Bobcats were led by tournament most valuable player Clayton Louderback who had 18 points, Jayden Caylor had 16, Dillon Barritt had 13 and Claycomb had 12.

In addition to Harkless, Hot Springs had Norton who finished with 16 and Thane Lockhart who had 13.

The win moves Upton to 10-1 on the season while Hot Springs falls to 5-1. The Bison will face Belle Fourche Friday.

Faith claims third straight title

Coming into the West River Invitational most years, the Faith girls basketball team knows it has a target on its back.

That target didn’t matter, as the Lady Longhorns defended their title from last year with a resounding 74-29 win in the title game over Edgemont Saturday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

The title was the Lady Longhorns’ third straight West River Invitational title.

“I felt we were pretty flat in the first half, and then in the second half I thought we played more like we normally do,” Faith coach Bryan Carmichael said. “This is an important tournament for us. We set goals every year, and this is the first tournament that we play in, so this is our first big goal.”

Faith was able to dictate the pace of play all night, pushing the ball on offense and pressuring on defense. The Lady Longhorns forced 18 Edgemont turnovers.

“That’s how we play. We like to try to make the other team play a little faster than they’d like to,” Carmichael said.

Sydnie Schauer led all scorers for Faith with 21 points, and the Lady Longhorns also had Mikenzy Miller in double digits with 14 and Aiyana Byrd had 10.

For the Lady Moguls, Morgan Peterson had 11 points to lead all scorers.

“It depends on the night, if you look at our scorebook there’s multiple players who could lead us in scoring,” Carmichael said. “That’s something we’re very proud of because we hink that makes us tougher to guard.”

“It’s a big deal,” she said. “We lost three of our top players last year, so we knew we needed to work hard. We have a big target on our back and we know every team is going to give us their best shot. We knew no matter who we played we would need to play hard throughout the game.”

Faith started the game with its trademark full court press and was able to force five turnovers from Edgemont in the first quarter.

The Longhorns led 19-7 at the end of the first quarter. At the start of the second quarter, Faith came out and scored the first five points to go up 24-7 with just over five minutes remaining in the half.

After the first 16 minutes Faith led 33-18, and in the third quarter that pace didn’t let up.

The Longhorns went on a 10-3 run to start the half and stretch the lead to 22. From there, it was coasting time for Faith.

At the end of the third quarter the lead for Faith was 61-29, and in the fourth quarter the Lady Longhorns didn’t allow a point, and scored 13 of their own to put the exclamation point on the win.

Faith improved to 9-0 with the win and will begin the Little Moreau Conference Tournament Thursday. Edgemont falls to 4-7 on the season and will take on Hay Springs, Nebraska Monday in Edgemont.

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.