OELRICHS—After two lopsided losses to Class A opponents, the Class B Oelrichs Tigers got back on track Thursday night at home, defeating Rusty Lytle’s New Underwood Tigers, 68-29.
First year Oelrichs Head Coach James Knutson feels any game is a good game, even an easy blowout, if you focus on the right things: “I try to look in-game at the little adjustments, like can our man-to-man defense improve. It’s about forming good habits, instead of just blowing another team out.”
Knutson is a 2012 graduate of Red Cloud where he played under Matt Rama. After being graduated from Black Hills State, he had a couple of good offers East River but elected to take over at Oelrichs: “Working with Native youth is really what I want to do, giving back to them.”
Knutson points out that Oelrichs had a strong program a few years back and that is what he wants to reestablish: “We’re trying to bring that pride back, teach these kids Lakota values.”
As far as the job has gone, Knutson said, “I knew it was going to be a challenge, everyone is working hard in the class room, maybe it’s that Native connection, maybe a Native coach they really respect.”
Lytle says his Tigers are putting out effort, but they are very young and at this point in the season, not improving. There was no indication of that in the first 15 minutes of the game as New Underwood was able to keep it close, 23-17, Oelrichs. But the home team drained buckets in the final minute and went to the locker room up 29-21. Had the game just ended there, it would have been a respectable showing.
The wheels came off in the third. Oelrichs scored 23 points, New Underwood scored 4. In the final period Oelrichs scored 16, after putting their third string in, and New Underwood again scored 4.
Despite their last couple of losses against Custer and Rapid City Christian, Knutson feels these Class A opponents are good for his team: “It gives us confidence. We know we can beat an ‘A’ school like Lead/Deadwood (which they did opening game of the year). We’re not trying to be arrogant, but we can play with these ‘A’ schools and we are not intimidated.”
Oelrichs outrebounded New Underwood 32-23. They had 13 turnovers. New Underwood had 20. Nick Tobacco, a 5-10 sophomore, led all scorers with 16. Jason Long Soldier had 11 points and 6 rebounds. Charlie Swallow had 10 points and 6 rebounds.
Connor Knuppe, a 6-0 sophomore, led New Underwood with 11 points and 8 boards. Chance Derner added 9 points and 5 rebounds.
Oelrichs is at home against Crazy Horse this Saturday, January 20. They beat Crazy Horse 69-51 a week back. They are currently 7-4, and should win seven of their last nine games to finish at 14-6.
New Underwood beat Moorcroft, Wyoming, in their previous game, 50-40, but they are 2-7, and probably only have a shot at beating Newell in their remaining schedule.
New Underwood Tigers 7 14 4 4 – 29
Oelrichs Tigers 15 14 23 16 – 68
(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)