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Howard outlasted De Smet in overtime classic

Craig Wollman
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

It was an instant classic from Aberdeen on Saturday. Howard defeated the three-time defending state champion De Smet Bulldogs 60-55 in overtime to win their first state boys basketball championship in 60-years.

The game was back and forth from the get go. Whenever it felt like one team was starting to capture the momentum, the pendulum swung back the other way. The final seven seconds of regulation saw each team knock down a clutch shot. Tied at 50-50, Luke Koepsell scored for Howard to put the Tigers up by two with 1.2 seconds remaining. Britt Carlson then launched a full court heave on the inbound to George Jensen, who knocked it in at the buzzer to force overtime.

“That’s the way you want it for a state championship,” said Howard head coach Nick Koepsell. “The refs were letting them play, you get the ball into the guys hands and you expect them to make plays for you, and it’s a lot to ask of them, but our guys absolutely responded the way I knew they would.”

In overtime, Howard’s defense only allowed three-points. Offensively, they relied on their free throw shooting during the bonus basketball period to outlast the Bulldogs and secure the five-point victory.

“To respond that way, after they make that play at the end of regulation, the way that we did in overtime, what else could you ask for out of a group of kids? It’s unbelievable, I can’t describe it,” said coach Koepsell.

Kolt and Luke Koepsell led the way for the Tigers, combining for 40-points in the contest. Kolt also led the team in rebounds with 13 in the title game.

“It feels great. I’m just happy for everybody else,” explained coach Koepsell. “I’m happy for our school, our town, and our kids, most importantly. This is all about those guys, and I’m so happy for them, they deserve everything.”

This is Howard’s first state boys basketball title since 1964. Lyndon B. Johnson was President of the United States the last time the Tigers hoisted the championship trophy. Howard did go to the state title game in 1995, but they lost that year to Red Cloud to finish runner-up.

Howard has three state boys basketball championships in program history – 1956, 1964, and now 2024.

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.