DIKE – How it started: Dike-New Hartford’s Brewer Eiklenborg stepped to the free throw line with his team down seven and 47.8 seconds remaining.
How’s it going: Eiklenborg has quite the story to tell from the game where he raced down the court and beat the buzzer. His layup capped a miraculous nine-point run as the Wolverines prevailed, 87-85, over Denver for the NICL East’s division lead.
Eiklenborg, the soft-spoken 6-foot-3 junior reserve, scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter and was part of a never-quit group from Class 2A’s No. 3-ranked Dike-New Hartford. The Wolverines (9-1, 6-1) outscored one of the state’s top offenses as No. 6 Denver (9-2, 5-2) had four starters reach at least 16 points.
“I thought it was never over,” Eiklenborg said. “Coach trusted me and I just came up big, I guess.”
With no margin for error, Eiklenborg and company did everything right. Following his free throws that started the closing run, Zak Wauters recorded a backcourt steal and layup to cut the deficit to three.
Denver tried to regroup with a timeout.
With D-NH overplaying the baseline entry pass, Eiklenborg played free safety and intercepted a long ball. He fired it over to Landen Sullivan, who found Wauters in the corner for a game-tying 3-pointer and 23 seconds remaining.
The Cyclones then attempted to work the final shot, but Dike-New Hartford came up with a stop. Sullivan located Eiklenborg in transition for the buzzer-beater.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a finish that exciting in a long time,” Dike-New Hartford coach Greg Moore said. “I just had some guys that stepped up and made some big plays.”
Adding to Dike-New Hartford’s degree of difficulty was the fact that lead scorer Dane Fuller and his 22 point average was unavailable. Fuller is set to undergo hand surgery and won’t likely be available until the postseason, at the earliest.
“We knew we had some good players behind Dane,” Moore said. “But to have guys just pick up the slack from the kind of year he was having, hopefully, it’s a boost of confidence. I thought the guys we had on the floor did a nice job of working together well for only having practice one day as a different group.”
In Fuller’s absence, Sullivan commanded the offense with 27 points while fellow senior guard AJ Wegener was also tough off the dribble and added 19 points. Wauters knocked down five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points of his own.
“At the beginning of the game we had a little too much one-on-one stuff, but at the end there we got the drives and the dump down and drives and kick out,” Moore said. “We just recognized when they come to double, we’ve got to have a guy open. We did a good job of finding him.”
Denver played its fast-paced style throughout this thriller and appeared to have pulled away with a 10-2 run early in the fourth quarter.
Kyler Matthias hit three 3-pointers and 8 of 16 field goals to lead the Cyclones with 22 points. Caylor Hoffer added 20 points, William Curtis finished with 17 and Bryce Phelps 16.
Denver coach Kyle Matthias wanted his team to remain aggressive down the stretch and get to the free throw line to seal a tough road win. It just didn’t happen.
“We play an aggressive style,” Matthias said. “We could have made a couple better decisions and credit them. They’re fighters and they’re a good basketball team. … They came out and fought, and I think this one was for Dane.”
For Denver, this heartbreaking loss provided a learning experience.
“We’ve got four seniors and I love them, but there’s still plenty of things we can work on and they’re eager to do that,” Matthias said. “They love the game and we’ll bounce back. It’s a fun sport. These are fun games. You’ve got to be sitting in the stands thinking that’s a fun game to watch.”
Moore fully realizes that outscoring the Cyclones is no easy task.
“It’s a well-coached team with a lot of good players and they’re scoring 80-90 points a night,” Moore said. “We knew we were going to have to be able to run up and down the floor. With a little less depth, I thought the kids hung in there and really did a nice job and hit some big shots.”
Added Eiklenborg, “We’re still one of the top teams and I think we can compete with anyone.”
DIKE-NEW HARTFORD 39, DENVER 33: With a game on the line, Dike-New Hartford coach Bruce Dall doesn’t hesitate to send his sophomore year-round basketball player Ellary Knock to the line.
Knock converted five of six free throw attempts in the final minute after Denver rallied within three as Class 2A’s No. 2-ranked Wolverines remained perfect (10-0, 9-0).
No. 7 Denver (8-3, 5-3) was paced by Grace Hennessy’s 12 points, including four at the end of a 13-2 run that made it a 34-31 game with 4:50 remaining. Neither team scored again until Knock’s free throws.
Dike-New Hartford won despite shooting just 13 of 56 from the field. The Wolverines’ full-court press and zone defense forced 17 first-half turnovers before Denver settled into the game. The Cyclones only attempted 35 shots.
“You can be off on offense like we were tonight, but you can always rely on your defense,” Dall said. “Day in and day out, what we do is rely on our defense.”
Despite the loss, Denver coach Joe Frost was pleased with how his team adjusted in the second half.
“Statistically, they’re probably the best defense in the state. And from seeing them in person twice, it would be hard to say there’s a defense better,” Frost said. “I think we learned a little bit about ourselves and how to use their aggression to our advantage.”
DENVER – Isaac Besh 3-11 0-0 7, Byrce Phelps 5-8 2-2 16, Kyler Matthais 8-16 3-4 22, William Curtis 5-8 5-6 12, Caylor Hoffer 9-15 1-2 20, Ethan Schoville 1-2 1-1 3, Mitchell DeVries 1-2 0-0 2, Hunter Shollenbarger 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-63 12-15 85.
DIKE-NEW HARTFORD – AJ Wegener 6-14 7-8 19, Nathan Moore 1-2 2-2 4, Zak Wauters 8-12 0-0 19, Landen Sullivan 9-13 8-12 27, Cale Jensen 2-2 0-1 4, Jacob Stockdale 0-0 0-0 0, Brewer Eiklenborg 5-8 3-4 13. Totals 31-49 20-28 87.
Denver 21 18 24 22 – 85
Dike-NH 21 17 24 25 – 87
3-point goals – Denver 7 (Matthias 3, Phelps 2, Hoffer, Besh), DNH 6 (Wauters 5, Sullivan).
DENVER – Allison Bonette 1-6 4-4 7, Emma Hennessy 1-3 0-1 2, Grace Hennessy 2-8 2-2 4, Reese Johnson 4-9 2-2 12, Rachel Hennessy 1-3 0-0 2, Avery Forde 1-4 0-0 2, Tessa Joerger 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 11-35 8-9 33
DIKE-NEW HARTFORD – Ellary Knock 3-13 5-6 13, Taylor Kvale 2-9 1-2 7, Paula Gonzalez 2-8 0-0 4, Payton Petersen 3-7 2-5 9, Sophia Hoffman 2-11 0-2 4, Camille Landphair 0-3 0-0 0, Jadyn Petersen 1-2 0-0 2, Taylor Hoens 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-56 9-17 39.