On Friday, March 4 the Lennox High School boys’ basketball team traveled to Tea to take on the Titans in the second round of Region 4A playoffs. The winner would advance to the SoDak 16 and be one win away from qualifying for the State A tournament.
The Orioles were prepared for the Titans, coming out strong. The two teams went almost basket for basket with Lennox leading 18-16 after the opening quarter. At the buzzer before the half, Lennox’s Steven Christion hit a half-court shot to tie things up at 34-34 all.
The back and forth basket for basket action continued in the second half but in the fourth, bad passes led to some quick buckets for the Titans and before long, Tea Area had built a lead that forced the Orioles to foul. The Titans hit the free throws down the stretch and went on to win 66-54, ending the Orioles season.
“Although we didn’t get as far as we wanted, we can look back on our journey and know that we put forth tremendous effort and played together,” said Oriole head coach Chris Buckmiller. “Nobody likes losing, but when we know we did all that we could, it makes it easier to hold our heads high— one of the many lessons that sports teach student-athletes.”
This marked Buckmiller’s first year as head coach and he knew he wanted to create a competitive program quickly.
“When I took the job as the head boys basketball coach, many coaches who I look up to told me it takes three to four years to build a program to how a new coach would like it; I wanted to fast-track that and create a new culture of belief and hard work. We did that. It’s hard to express how proud I am of our entire program for buying in so quickly,” said Buckmiller. “In our third game of the season, our beliefs and identity were tested. We were down 12 points in the fourth quarter and won that game. That was our defining moment in the season... we decided we wanted to be a great team.”
Buckmiller attributed a lot of the team’s success to the senior leadership.
“We had five seniors who lead by example with a selfless attitude and always put the team first,” said Buckmiller. “They have set the bar high for senior leadership for years to come.”
Seniors on this year’s team included Jackson Arlt, Steven Christion, Carter Van Houten, Denver Lefers and Hunter Gabriel.
Against Tea three Orioles were in double figures on the night. Jackson Arlt had 13 points, hitting five of seven from the field. He also had two assists and one steal. Braeden Wulf had 12 points, hitting two three-pointers in the game. He also had one rebound. Conner Eich finished with 12 points, hitting four three pointers. Eich also had three rebounds and one steal.
Porter Ihnen finished with nine points, had eight rebounds and three assists in the game. Christion ended the game with five points, five rebounds and Carter Van Houten had three points, one rebound and one assist.
Despite the loss, Buckmiller believes the team has laid the foundation of something great.
“Moving forward, we plan on building off of our great season and look to take the next step. It will be a huge offseason for us to see, ‘how bad we want it.’ We have great players coming back and guys will step up into a new role next season,” said Buckmiller. “I want to especially thank the community for the incredible support this season. Our stands were full and it helped create meaningful memories for our team. We appreciate it. Believe.”