No. 1 ranked in Class A and three-time defending state champion St. Thomas More made a rare appearance in Sioux Falls as the Cavaliers paid a visit to O’Gorman Friday night. STM entered the game at 8-0 and on a torrid pace as its average margin of victory was 24.4 points per game.
Perhaps a test against a school from Class AA would prove a more formidable foe. The closest anyone has been within STM all season is Sioux Falls Washington, who lost to the Cavs by 11 in early December. But this AA game against O’Gorman was no test at all after the swarming first quarter, and STM rolled to a 43-24 victory behind Aislinn Duffy’s 13 points.
STM’s defense is suffocating, and it was on display again against the Knights. The Cavs (9-0) allow just 28 points per game, and if not for a 14-point second quarter, O’Gorman would have been in real trouble. The Knights (4-7) managed just one point in the first quarter, three in the third and five in the fourth.
STM laid it on early and led 17-1 at the end of the first quarter. The Cavs hit three 3-pointers in the opening quarter, two from Dru Gylten. After the Cavs got up 9-0 with just over four minutes to play in the opening frame, O’Gorman coach Kent Kulsrud used a timeout.
The Knights immediately turned it over coming out of the timeout and Jayden Bies hit a 3-pointer on the other end to increase the lead to 12-0. O’Gorman didn’t get their first point until Rylee Benson hit a free throw with 3:10 to play in the opening quarter, and the Knights’ first basket didn’t come until Sebastian Akoi scored with 7:32 to play in the half. Akoi led the Knights with nine points.
“They make you work so hard to score,” O’Gorman coach Kent Kolsrud said. “After that disappointing start, I’m just pleased with our kids. Over the final three quarters, we played them pretty evenly. You just can’t dig that kind of a hole.”
Akoi’s basket to open the second quarter got the Knights going as they went on a 12-2 run, closing the gap to 19-12 when McKenzie Hermanson hit a 3-pointer with just over two minutes to play before the break. O’Gorman outscored STM 14-7 in the second quarter but still trailed 24-15 at halftime.
“We needed to hit some shots to stay in this thing,” Kolsrud said. “I thought the shots we took were good shots, but we just had multiple players miss a lot of those. I was pleased with our shots, they just didn’t go in. You need those to go in to beat a team of this caliber.”
Despite showing signs of life at halftime, the the Knights followed up that little spurt in the second quarter with another futile quarter, scoring just three points in the third. O’Gorman limped into the final frame down 32-19.
If there is a positive note for O’Gorman, it was there defense as well. The Cavs entered the game averaging nearly 57 points per game and the 43 they scored on Friday was their season low. While the Knights were struggling mightily on the offensive end, it’s not like STM was taking complete advantage.
“I thought we made them work for their shots,” Kolsrud said. “They run a lot of offensive possessions and they execute extremely well. I thought that’s how we got back into the game with some defensive stops and boards on the other end.”
It’s been a tough December for the Knights, who completed their five-game home streak during the month with a record of 1-4.
“We just need something good to happen to this team,” Kolsrud said. “Maybe getting away will be a good thing. We got better playing this game. Our kids showed a lot of character in that game by getting themselves back in it. You get better playing good teams.”
ST. THOMAS MORE (9-0)
Jayden Bies 1 1-2 4, Dru Gylten 3 1-2 9, Kayla Jacobson 1 0-0 2, Skylar Sullivan 0 0-0 0, Klaire Kirsch 5 0-0 11, Alex Kandolin 1 0-0 2, Clara Benson 0 0-0 0, Tintin Almqvist 1 0-0 2, Ashley Wojcik 0 0-0 0, Liz Elder 0 0-0 0, Aislinn Duffy5 3-4 13. Totals: 17 5-8 43.
McKenzie Hermanson 1 0-0 3, Ashlee Beacon 0 0-0 0, Kendal Kreber 1 0-0 2, Emma Ronsiek 1 0-0 2, Carley Kunzel 0 0-0 0, Sebastian Akoi 3 3-3 9, Riley Benson 1 1-2 4, Sam Czarnecki 0 1-2 1, Courtney Baruth 1 1-2 3, Awoti Akoi 0 0-0 0, Gabbie Elliott 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 5-10 41.
STM 17 24 32 43
O’Gorman 1 15 19 24
3-point goals – STM 4 (Gylten 2), OG 2 (Benson 1, Hermann 1). Rebounds – OG 21 (Benson 5). Assists – OG 2 (Kreber 1, Beacom 1), Steals – OG 8 (Beacon 4), Blocks OG 3 (Beacom 2). Total fouls – STM 15, OG 11. Fouled Out – none.