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Five in a row for St. Thomas More

Eight seed gets hot, defending champ bears down


RAPID CITY—Both the Girls Class A and the Girls Class B state tournament fields had a West River team seeded number one. That proved to be a very hot seat. Undefeated Class B Faith was beaten by #8 seed, Tripp-Delmont/Armour, 48-39 on opening day. Once beaten, number one seed, Class A Belle Fourche, bowed out to #8 seed Madison, 56-42.

Castlewood, the #5 seed, would go on to capture the Girls Class B title, 47-41, over #2 seed Hanson. Number three seed, St Thomas More, despite regular season losses to Belle Fourche, West Central and Class AA Rapid City Stevens, would display the focus and determination common to champions, and defend their Class A championship, 54-41, over Madison.

Let’s look at what happened in Class B. Although undefeated, Faith had never met a competition tough, East River squad. The Lady Longhorns played a strictly B-school schedule, and they never got a chance to face the big, strong girls they were sure to meet up with at state. Free wheeling Faith, although full of grit and fun to watch, had no real power in the post, and when you couple that with a weak schedule, left them unprepared for the half-court reality of tournament basketball. Faith would beat Avon, 50-45, to place seventh.

Champion Castlewood had two losses during the regular season, both to Class A schools. They had some wins over Class A. How could you seed them accurately when they had not lost to a Class B school? This is how a #5 seed can shock a field. Clearly, the present power points system, does not reward lower class teams enough points for playing higher class teams. Except it really isn’t clear. Number 10 seed, Douglas, in Boys Class AA, travels all the way to Brandon Valley and beats a team in the Round of 16 who has a coach grousing that Douglas was rewarded too many points for playing Class A competition. He won’t be making that gripe again.

Whatever the case, the Castlewood Lady Warriors reign as newly crowned Class B champs. Head Coach Leslie Tvedt deserves praise.

Crow Creek came to Watertown with high expectations. They had prevailed over a tough LNI field, but played their worst basketball in the second half of the season, losing to Miller, Todd County, Pine Ridge and Winner, all teams they would have beaten in the first half of the season. They played three B-schools, and maybe they should have scheduled three AA schools, because beating up on Wakpala 80-20 does far less good for your team than losing to Class AA Sturgis, for example. The Lady Chieftains finished eighth at Watertown, losing to Vermillion, 76-54.

Most successful Wasicu teams play with discipline and determination. Reservation teams play with heart. To coach them, you must continually refocus their attention, reestablish the team priority and goal, and that is tough sledding for any coach. It can wear you out emotionally, but that is the job, and those that did it best, Dusty Lebeaux, Jesse Mendoza, knew how to meld the freelancing individuals common to rez ball, into a powerful unit.

Because of a snow storm, St Thomas More Head Coach Brandon Kandolin lost a game. Rapid City Stevens also lost a game to the snow. Activities Director Jared Vazquez arranged a game they had to squeeze in late one night after the regional wrestling tournament, between STM and Class AA Stevens, the first time these two schools had ever met.

STM showed why they are such a powerful program because they came out socking the Lady Raiders in the snot box. But in the second half, the Stevens defense took control of the paint, and the Stevens guards hit big buckets from outside, and the net result was a stunning double digit loss for STM. In retrospect, probably the best thing that could have happened to the Lady Cavaliers.

When STM arrived in Watertown, they had the full measure of the field. Unlike last year, they had repeatedly tasted their own blood, but they knew where they were at, and what they had to do to win. We predicted they would win; they were too well coached and had too much talent and pride to fail. Postseason odds are stacked against any West River team. Anytime our neighbors do well, we should all congratulate them.

This has been an unprecedented season for West River. They had the number one seeds in Class B and Class A Girls, and they won the Class A Girls title. In Girls Class AA both Stevens and Rapid City Central made it to state, and for a time, Stevens was ranked number one, and has already handed number one ranked Aberdeen Central their only loss. The Lady Raiders leading scorer is Lexus Eagle Chasing. Juneau Jones is the heart and soul of the Lady Cobblers. Lakota presence at Class AA is increasing.

In Class A Boys three reservation teams have made it to the state tournament in Rapid City—Crow Creek, Pine Ridge and Red Cloud. Before the Round of 16, this could not have happened because Pine Ridge and Red Cloud would have had to get past the other in the regionals.

In Class AA Boys, Stevens is rated number one. Last year they had a team loaded with Lakota ballplayers, all lost to graduation, but replaced by transfer Trey Eberlein from Central. Eberlein has been far more important to the Raider team effort than he was at Central. Head Coach Chris Stoebner has found a role for him Eberlein attacks with relish. Central will take on Douglas in the opening round on Thursday in Sioux Falls. Central is the traditional Class AA school that has Lakota ballplayers, like Camden Talley, but Douglas has a bunch in Sam and Dan Hand, Dylan Pourier, Anthony Jones and Cetan Big Crow. It is doubtful, collectively, there have ever been this many Lakota ballplayers at a Class AA state tournament.

Girls Class B State Tournament results

First round

#1 Faith, 39  #8 Tripp-Delmont/Armour, 48

#2 Hanson, 53  #7 Avon, 42

#3 Sully Buttes, 36  #6 Ethan, 37

#4 Warner, 28  #5 Castlewood, 54

Second round loser bracket

#1 Faith, 45  #4 Warner, 60

#3 Sully Buttes, 41  #7 Avon, 40

Second round winner bracket

#5 Castlewood, 70  #8 Tripp-Delmont/Armour, 64

#2 Hanson, 46  #6 Ethan, 32

Final round loser bracket

Fifth Place: #3 Sully Buttes, 44  #4 Warner, 54

Seventh Place: #1 Faith, 50  #7 Avon, 45

Final round winner bracket

Third Place: #6 Ethan, 46  #8 Tripp-Delmont/Armour, 57

Championship: #2 Hanson, 41  #5 Castlewood, 47

Girls Class A State Tournament results

First round

#1 Belle Fourche, 42   #8 Madison, 56

#2 McCook Central/Montrose, 52   #7 Aberdeen Roncalli, 45

#3 St Thomas More, 44  #6 Vermillion, 26

#4 West Central, 61  #5 Crow Creek, 39

Second round loser bracket

#1 Belle Fourche, 79   #5 Crow Creek, 53

#6 Vermillion, 45 #7 Aberdeen Roncalli, 58

Second round winner bracket

#4 West Central, 44  #8 Madison, 50

#2 McCook Central/Montrose, 54  #3 St Thomas More, 63

Final round loser bracket

Fifth Place: #1 Belle Fourche, 30  #7 Aberdeen Roncalli, 42

Seventh Place: #5 Crow Creek, 54  #6 Vermillion, 76

Final round winner bracket

Third Place: #4 West Central, 50  #2 McCook Central/Montrose, 44

Championship: #3 St Thomas More, 54  #8 Madison, 41

(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com)

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