BROOKINGS — The Brookings Bobcats saw their three-game winning streak come to an end as Sioux Falls Jefferson used a dominant performance on the defensive end to earn a 52-35 win over the Bobcats at Bob Jostad Gymnasium in Brookings High School on Friday night.
While the loss was disappointing, Brookings head coach Mitch McLagan remained optimistic thanks to the Bobcats’ play on the defensive end and their recent play, which has them hopeful for a trip to the SoDak 16.
“I think our kids are feeling pretty good about themselves,” McLagan said. “Give our kids a bunch of credit because where things were at the beginning of the year, a lot of teams would have not taken steps forward. Our kids didn’t quit and because they didn’t quit they were rewarded with that three-game winning streak.”
The Bobcats’ improvement was noticeable on the defensive end of the floor on Friday night. Brookings used its defense to stay in the game throughout the first half, limiting the Cavaliers to just 18 points and 19 percent shooting in the first half.
“I thought our kids did a really good job with our scouting report,” McLagan said. “Defensively, we were really good and everyone did their job. We made things really difficult for them. I was super proud of how we defended in the first half.”
Although the Bobcats did well defensively, that effort was negated by the Cavaliers' performance on defense. Jefferson scored the first 10 points of the game and held Brookings without a field goal until Kymber Buys’s floater with 6:47 left in the second quarter.
With Jefferson up 10-2 at the end of the first quarter, the Cavaliers continued to make life difficult on the offensive end and held the Bobcats 10 percent shooting in the first half on the way to taking a 19-8 lead into halftime.
The Cavaliers turned it up a notch in the third quarter, going on a 13-0 run after Amari Ward opened the second half with a jumper. Jefferson ran its lead up to 22 points and led 39-21 at the end of the third quarter and used its 39-28 advantage on the glass – including 13 offensive rebounds – to put the game away in the fourth quarter.
“We get into halftime and we’re down…and then they got offensive rebounds and hit 3-pointers,” McLagan said. “They ended up hurting us pretty badly in the second half.”
Sloan McLagan led the Bobcats with eight points off the bench while Brinleigh Mack and Ward each chipped in with seven points. Kymber Buys had six points and three rebounds and Logan Smidt had two points and nine rebounds in defeat.
Brinley Altenburg led Jefferson with 19 points, eight steals, six rebounds and four assists while Dunn had nine points, eight rebounds, four blocks, two steals and an assist.
The Bobcats finished the game shooting 26 percent from the floor and 2-of-13 (15.4%) on 3-point attempts. Brookings also made 11-of-14 (78.6%) free throws and committed 18 turnovers.
Jefferson shot 33 percent for the game including 7-for-28 (25%) on 3-pointers. The Cavaliers made 11-of-13 (84.6%) free throws and committed 16 turnovers.
Although the Bobcats lost, they still are playing some of their best basketball down the stretch. Brookings's three-game winning streak came on the road with a 49-39 win over Sioux Falls Washington on Jan. 30, a 67-39 win over Sioux Falls Lincoln on Feb. 1 and a Sioux Falls Roosevelt on Feb. 6.
The wins helped the Bobcats break into the SoDak 16 picture and sit 14th heading into Friday night’s game. Where they stand could be important as Top-ranked O’Gorman and second-ranked Mitchell are the clear top teams in the state while the Bobcats competed well in a 49-42 loss to third-ranked Brandon Valley on Jan. 5.
While McLagan said his players don’t focus too much on the rankings at this point of the season, he stated the goal was to continue to improve in the final four games of the year which continue with a trip to Pierre on Tuesday night and Aberdeen Central on Thursday night.
“We have two big games next week,” McLagan said. “We need to push this aside, make sure we’re working on the things that we need to get better at for next week. At this time of year, you have got to move on and get ready for Tuesday.”