RAPID CITY— Frigid temperatures and treacherous driving conditions have taken a number of important basketball games off the ledger. These games were rescheduled, and then some of that rescheduling was also postponed or canceled. Each team is allowed 20 games, but a cancelation leaves a team scrambling for a game, wanting the power points that can alter where they are seeded, come play-off time.
Class B Girls
Regions 6-8 are the three West River regions. Corsica-Stickney won Region 6 with an 18-2 record. Avon was second at 15-5, but one of their wins came over Corsica-Stickney, 45-30. Rivalries often create wins where loses are the more likely outcome. Kids get hyped for these games.
New Underwood tops Region 7 at 17-3. Those three losses were big games. In the first, they lost to 19-1 Faith, 60-42. They then won nine in a row before driving up the interstate to Kadoka, where the 14-6 Lady Kougars beat them, 45-31. The Tigers ended their season with a 59-54 OT loss to Class A 16-4 Belle Fourche, as good as a win to boost the confidence of your charges, if you are Head Coach Stacy Finkbeiner.
But there are three other teams in this region who have the talent to make a mess of things for the other teams. At 15-4, given the talent they have, White River has been a bit of a disappointment. Head Coach Kristi Barnhart has struggled to bring together a team of disparate personalities, and meld them into a fighting unit that reflects their considerable abilities. They lost twice to Todd County, a heated rivalry, by only a bucket at LNI, 68-66, but later by a wider margin, 81-60. The Lady Tigers also lost to 14-6 Kadoka Area, 60- 51. After losing to Todd County the second time, they lost to New Underwood, 42-40. After this loss, they won their final eight games, absolutely demolishing every team they played. Kadoka Area is an interesting team. On paper, they should not be as good as they are, but games are not won or lost on paper. On the court, they have the focus to beat better teams, and proved that the first time they met New Underwood, but they lost the second game in OT, 65-59.
At 12-7, Lower Brule has only lost to Class A teams. They are a new addition to Region 6, but they have the old schedule, and play none of the teams in it. We have no way of knowing how they stack up against New Underwood, White River and Kadoka Area. With four teams this competitive, this is the Region to watch in Girls Class B. All of these teams could make a run at State, but only two can get through.
Bottom line for Region 7: if White River has found its groove, all the other teams are in trouble. Kadoka Area has beaten both teams ahead of them in power points, but nobody has played Lower Brule, and they have been battled hardened by playing Class A opponents all season long. New Underwood is still on top, and will have the advantage of home court to make the Round of 16.
At 19-1, the Faith Lady Longhorns are far and away the class of Region 8. Their only loss came to a North Dakota team, and that by only a bucket. They have played but one East River team, so the experts back east won’t give them much credit, but in their final game, they beat a tough Class A Belle Fourche team, 52-42. These girls are for real.
Going by power points, the top team in Girls Class B is 19-0 Ethan. Faith is second, and 18-1 DeSmet is third. DeSmet’s only loss was to Corsica-Stickney, who is rated fourth.
Boys Class B
The Colome Cowboys in their signature green uniforms top Region 6. They have had a tale of two seasons. In the first tale, they were 8-0, beating the likes of 16-2 Jones County, before running into White River in the championship game of the Jones County Invitational, where they were handily beaten, 97-41. That sent them into a three game tailspin, where they lost to Jones County in the rematch, Hanson, and Kimball/ White Lake. They then won seven straight, and have one more game, this Friday against Tripp/ Delmont/ Armour.
Region 7 leader is defending LNI champion, White River. At 16-2, they still lead the state in power points, but a onepoint loss recently to 13-6 Canistota had to hurt. Jones County has only two loses, one to Colome, and to White River, a blow out to open the season. Since then, they have proven themselves a pretty scrappy squad. Lower Brule has seven losses, all to Class A teams. They don’t play their Region 7 rivals, so we will all find out what happens when they finally have to.
Timber Lake tops Region 8. They have two losses, both to East River schools, Sully Buttes and Clark/Willow Lake. No other team in their region appears to be much of a threat in the post season.
This year’s Class B tournament in Aberdeen should be a classic. Clark/ Willow Lake, DeSmet, Hanson and Bridgewater/ Emery will be tough competition. White River still tops them all, but the Canistota loss proved the Class B field is deep, and you have to be up for every game.
Girls Class A
There is not much to crow about in Region 6. Miller is on top at 12-5. Crow Creek is 11-8.
In Region 7, just the opposite is true. Unbeaten Winner has beaten six East River teams and nine teams with winning records. They are quick and strong and sharply focused. They are a formidable basketball machine. Todd County is 18-2, and coming off a stunning 67- 66 loss to Red Cloud, they lost by only a bucket to Winner. Given their two wins over White River, folks better watch out for the Lady Falcons. At 11-7, Pine Ridge appears to be in a transition year, but like Red Cloud, they can crank it up and hand any team in the region a loss. They lost by only a point to Winner.
As usual Belle Fourche and St Thomas More battle for the top spot in Region 8. The Lady Cavaliers have proven time and again, if you deck them, they can get up, dust themselves off, and still come back and win a state championship.
The top team in Class A is unbeaten West Central. They are ahead of Winner in power points only because they have beaten ten teams with winning records.
Boys Class A
Cheyenne-Eagle Butte (CEB) is easily the class of the Region 6 field. That will happen when you have Leon Brown Otter and Cecelio Montgomery. The problem is the weather has cost them an important game against Pine Ridge and threatens their remaining four games. Montgomery is the biggest wild card in all of South Dakota basketball, and if he plays up to his potential, the Braves will make the state tournament in Sioux Falls.
As of this writing, the Pine Ridge Thorpes have ended regular season play. They finished 16-3, with close losses to White River at LNI and to Bridgewater/ Emery. Ale Rama put up 44 on them, and they lost to Red Cloud, 68-65, in the most intense rivalry in South Dakota basketball. The White River loss was avenged, and despite losing Juwon Garnier and DJ Vitalis, the Thorpes still have the best team on paper in the state. Casey Means has to harness his spirited horses to fulfill that potential, and if these kids can respond, and play the basketball of which they are capable, they will meet Tea Area for all the marbles.
Although St Thomas More (STM) is the best team in Region 8, they have an extremely tough final week of play. They must travel to Class AA Yankton and then Brandon Valley. The Cavaliers have only two losses, to Tea Area and SF Christian, but figure to have four by the time they get back home.
Tea Area is one of the toughest Class A teams to come down the pike in some years. The Sioux Falls area school has beaten previously unbeaten Class AA SF Lincoln, and if any team appears to be a prohibitive favorite to win state, it would be them. But SF Christian and Pine Ridge have the players to upset them, and it will be a quality Class A tournament.
Class AA Girls
In Class AA we see the ever widening competition gap between East and West River. SF O’Gorman tops the girls at 17-2. The only West River team with a realistic shot at state are the Stevens Lady Raiders at 13-5. Sturgis is at 11-7, with the unfortunate talent of being able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, RC Central is 7-10, Douglas is 9-7, and Spearfish is 2-15.
Class AA Boys
SF Lincoln was looking like a force with which to be reckoned, until they were summarily defeated by Class A powerhouse, Tea Area. Even though defending state champ Yankton is in second at 13-4, they are in the same position they were a year ago, and when you have Matthew Mors, a year older and stronger, you have to be confident you can pull it off once again. RC Stevens is in sixth place at 12-6, and the loss of Dawson Paulsen, like the loss of Gib Elder last year, is a hurt that the Raiders may not be able to recover from. Sturgis is 13-4, but has not played enough Class AA competition, RC Central is 7-11, and Spearfish and Douglas bring up the bottom, at 3-14 and 2-14, respectively. Hats off to Travis Miller for even winning those two games, as he is in a transition year for the ages, but managed to twice beat Spearfish, a team that used to routinely upset the Patriots when they had the players good enough to take them to State.
(James Giago Davies can be reached at skindiesel@ msn.com)