Making a Case for Each South Dakota Boys Class AA Team to Win State Title
Earlier this week we took a look at the Class AA girls basketball field and how wide open it appears to be. The Class AA Boys? Even more so.
This season has been among one of the more fun seasons in Class AA boys basketball. We've seen a west-river resurgence with Rapid City Stevens and Central both being the two-top teams in the state. We've also seen Douglas make a run to the state tournament, while Sturgis Brown fell just short of the dance in an overtime loss.
On the east side of the state, the Sioux Falls schools faced tough challenges on their way to state. Yankton has flourished under freshman Matthew Mors, while teams like Harrisburg have flown under the radar while still posting 16 wins!
Each team that made the state tournament this season have won a minimum of 11 games. Think about that for a moment.
We've seen throughout the season, consistently, that anything can happen with Class AA boys this season. It sets us up for a fun tournament.
#1 Rapid City Stevens
The Raiders enter the tournament as the top overall seed after going 17-3. They enter the tournament with a lot of players that have tournament experience. They are a very senior led group that has lost three games by a combined 10 points. The Raiders also played a tough schedule and has wins over three of the tournament teams in the field.
#2 Rapid City Central
Rapid City Central is right behind Stevens. We mean right behind. The two teams played in front of 4,000 people in Rapid on February 15th and it came down to the wire. They split the season series with the Raiders this year. Central has a dangerous playmaker in Kalieb Walton-Blandon. He is in most conversations of top-five players in the state. Right behind him is Dylan Hay who can knock down the outside shot. They have the athleticism and height to match up to anyone.
#3 SF Lincoln
The Patriots opened the season on a six-game winning streak before running into one of the top teams in the nation in Hopkins, MN. They have four in-state losses this season. Lincoln is very balanced with their offense. They have great outside shooters in Alex Glanzer and Jared Jaros, a crafty point guard in Christophe Bwayna, a rebounding machine in Jymell Nave, and one of the best players in the state in Diang Gatlauk. Oh, and Dillon Barrow now returns to the team after missing a majority of the season with an injury. They might be the most complete team entering the tournament and they have also beat three teams in the tournament.
Harrisburg made an appearance at the state tournament last year but had a tough match-up against O'Gorman in the opening round. Almost all of those kids returned for this season and it has shown. The Tigers posted a 17-4 regular season record. Ace Zorr and Brady Van Holland lead the senior heavy group into the tournament. Blair Slaughter has really come into his own this season as a junior. They are another team that can attack at all levels. Add a deep bench into the equation and the Tigers could go on a run to potentially take a state championship.
#5 SF Washington
Washington is the most athletic team in the entire state. They have the optimal lineup with a couple of tall kids who are 6'7 (Zach Heins)/6'8 (Manny Akot), one of the best guards in the state in Logan Uttecht, and a three-point monster in Topher Zahn. Their issue throughout the season is that they haven't been fully together. Getting a spark off the bench has also been a little bit of a hiccup, however the starting lineup is so strong that the Warriors are in every game they play. In their in-state losses, the Warriors kept it within ten points all but once. The night they didn't? They lost by 11 and had their worst shooting performance of the season. Their road is tough, but they have the talent on the roster to win a title.
#8 SF O'Gorman
It's all about peaking at the right time, right? That seems to be the O'Gorman mantra for both their boys and girls basketball teams. The Knights enter the tournament on a six-game winning streak after exchanging wins/losses through the season. They are another team that is very senior heavy. Jaron Zwagerman can hit any shot on the floor, while guys like Michael Statz, Isaac Struck, and Zach Norton have proven that they can take the lead in any game. Akoi Akoi gives the Knights the size and athleticism needed to match up with any other team in the tournament. They have faced adversity in their winning streak including an overtime win in the Round of 16. Battle tested, on fire, and they get the top team in the tournament in the quarterfinals. One win out of that and O'Gorman might end up becoming the favorite.
The little engine that could. Realistically I don't think many people before the season would have given Douglas a ticket into the state tournament. Here they are after defeating Brandon Valley in the Round of 16. They've lost by a combined 32 points in their five losses this season. Douglas has not lost to a team with a below .500 record either, as the teams they lost to combine for a record of 72-25. The Patriots closed off the back end of their schedule going 8-2 in their final ten games. Positive for them is that they face a common opponent in Rapid City Central in the quarterfinal round. Central and Douglas played a close 77-70 Cobbler win back in December. Don't blink. The Douglas Patriots have a talented enough team to make some noise this postseason.
If you haven't seen Matthew Mors play a game yet, you're doing yourself a disservice. The kid is the best player in the entire state and well worth going out of your way to see. Yankton went 13-7 during the regular season with a couple of questionable losses against teams under .500. Outside of those, the Bucks have played everyone tough this year defeating the likes of O'Gorman and Washington. They get another shot at Lincoln right away after losing to them 75-53 in the early parts of January. Yankton went 7-3 in the final 10 games and upset Aberdeen Central on a last second three-pointer from Cameron Krejci. The Bucks have a deep lineup with players that can hit shots from all sides of the floor. Mors, Krejci, and Jack Wolfgram will be a tough group for any team to defend.
The state tournament will be held at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center March 15-17.