Cossacks edge Fliers 65-63 in epic matchup

VOLGA – Instant classic.

Sophomore Max Nielson’s driving scoop shot with 13 seconds remaining lifted Sioux Valley to a 65-63 win over Flandreau in a Region 2A Boys’ Basketball Tournament semifinal on Friday inside a full and loud Cossack Center.

“Wow, what a great high school basketball atmosphere and a great game that two teams put on,” said Sioux Valley coach Bill Vincent.

The Cossacks had to withstand one last attack by Dylan LeBrun, but the senior All-Stater’s step-back 3 from the top of the key rimmed off and time expired.

“He’s the best player to ever play in Flandreau; one of the best players to play in the state, in my opinion,” Flier coach Brendan Sheppard said of the only 2,000-point scorer in school history. “At the end there, we considered calling timeout but with him with the ball in his hands and them scrambling, we would have never got as good of a shot as we did.

“It was about an inch or two from really shaking the foundation of basketball in South Dakota.”

The teams exchanged runs throughout.

Jake Schneider and Trevor Hanson sparked an early Cossack charge with eight points apiece as the home team was ahead 22-11 after a quarter.

Sioux Valley was on the verge of breaking the game open in the second, pushing the advantage to 32-15 midway through the stanza.

However, Nathan Cloud opened a 12-0 Flier spurt with a 3-pointer. LeBrun scored seven points during the run, which cut the deficit to 32-27.

Sioux Valley led 35-30 at halftime.

The Cossacks rattled off 11 consecutive points – Trevor Olson sandwiched a bucket and a traditional 3-point play around a Schneider trey, and Nielson also connected from downtown – in the third to open up a 49-34 cushion.

Flandreau righted the ship late in the period and trailed 57- 48 entering the fourth, where it continued to chip away.

Trailing 60-51, Nathan Kneebone’s steal and layup sparked the Fliers’ final push.

LeBrun hit a tough jumper with 4:30 left and added a base- line runner – and one – with 3:27 showing on the clock, leaving the score at 60-58.

Nielson countered with a 3-pointer on the other end with 2:27 to go.

LeBrun converted two free throws with 1:25 left and Sioux Valley proceeded to miss the front end of a one-and-one.

Nathan Cloud’s 3-ball from the left wing knotted things up at 63-63 with 37.2 seconds left.

Nielson chewed up some clock before dribbling left on a pick-and-roll, snaking past his defender and banking in an underhanded shot for the game-winner.

“There is no question there were some great, outstanding basketball players out on the oor tonight that both teams were trying to slow down and stop,” added Vincent. “I thought we came out with some awesome energy and got things going early. We took a couple chances on some shooters for them and they hit a couple shots to stick around, and had a couple runouts in the second quarter to get back in the game.

“In the third quarter, we couldn’t quite put them away again. And then I thought we (were) exhausted, and that was kind of our goal was to try to exhaust them and we maybe exhausted ourselves a little bit along the way.”

Hanson posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Nielson and Schneider both hit four 3-pointers while finishing with 14 points apiece. Nielson dished out five assists and grabbed five boards, while Schneider had six rebounds and four dimes.

Olson had 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and six boards.

LeBrun, an Augustana commit, scored a game-high 26 points and added 10 rebounds to complete the double-double. He also notched three blocks, two steals and a pair of assists.

Cloud and Connor LeBrun added 11 markers apiece, while Kneebone and Andrew Julson each contributed six.

“It was a great high school basketball game,” noted Sheppard. “Our kids played really hard. I told them (Sioux Valley) is going to make runs, going to make shots; we need to battle back, and we did that.

“I’m just really proud of my boys right now.”

Flandreau finished the season with a 16-6 record, including three losses to the Cossacks.

Sioux Valley (19-2) competes in the Round of 16 on Tuesday.

Register photo: Sioux Valley’s Max Nielson lines up a 3-pointer during the second quarter of the Cossacks’ 65-63 defeat of Flandreau in a Region 2A Boys’ Basketball Tournament semifinal Friday night in Volga. The sophomore hit the game-winning shot with 13 seconds remaining.

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