Making a Case for Each South Dakota Class AA Girls Team to Win State Title
We are just a little over a week away from the official start of the Class AA girls basketball tournament. Here's a case for each team to win a state championship.
This year's field sees the top seven teams from Class AA in the tournament, and the 9th overall best team. The Round of 16 went chalk outside of a Rapid City Central win over Brookings in the 8/9 game.
There are the standard favorites entering the tournament and most eyes will be placed on them. What about upsets? That's what we love about March and basketball played in the month. Each team features a unique circumstance that opens the door to potential upsets and an open tournament.
#1 Aberdeen Central
The Golden Eagles enter as the overall favorite in Class AA and for good reason. They brought back pretty much everyone from last season and have a veteran lineup featuring Paiton Burckhard, who is considered one of the best players in the state. Overall, they have the most balanced team in the class. The Golden Eagles went straight through their schedule to a 19-1 record with the lone setback in early January.
#2 SF Lincoln
Lincoln only has one loss to a South Dakota school this season and it was them falling short to O'Gorman 47-43 in late January. The Patriots have come out victorious otherwise and have a strong lineup on all levels of the floor. Morgan Hansen is another top player in the state that can dominate a game. Lincoln also can hit you with outside with Courtney Klatt and Emma Osmudson, or turn around and dominate a team inside with Sydnaya Dunn.
#3 RC Stevens
Aberdeen Central went 19-1 throughout the regular season. Their lone loss? The Stevens Raiders. This season the Raiders have averaged 56 points/game while only giving up 42 points/game. Their defense has been phenomenal and they enter the tournament with a roster that has a lot of experience. Stevens went 17-3 during the regular season and lost by a combined 12 points. They will be one of the strongest teams in the tournament.
#4 SF O'Gorman
No team is more on fire right now than the O'Gorman Knights. The defending champions will enter the tournament on a nine-game winning streak and have allowed just 37 points/game during that timeframe. They have suffocated teams with their 2-3 zone. Everything seems to be peaking for the Knights at the right time, and it could be back-to-back for O'Gorman.
#5 Brandon Valley
After starting the season 8-1, the Lynx took a couple of steps back in the back end of the schedule. Brandon Valley lost three straight games in the middle of February to Brookings, Aberdeen, and Pierre and the talk around them kind of died out. That might end up being a blessing in disguise. Mark Stadem brings in an extremely talented roster with Danica Kocer and Trinity Law. Even with them being young with one senior, the team has a lot of depth. They'll keep up with any team matched up with as all seven of their losses this season have been within 10 points.
Much like Brandon Valley, Harrisburg started very strong this season at 8-1 and seemed to be one of the favorites entering the back end of the schedule. Harrisburg ended the regular season losing four straight and only scoring 36 points/game. They were able to turn it around against Sturgis Brown at home to secure their spot in the state tournament. The Tigers will look to get back to the momentum they had at the beginning of the season. They have a great roster featuring USD recruit Jeniah Ugofsky and Dakota Wesleyan recruit Sydney Halling. This team also has depth to the roster and has role players off the bench that can provide a spark.
#7 SF Washington
If you would have told a Washington fan that they would make the state tournament after starting 1-8, they may have chuckled a little. Fact is, the Warriors are much better than their 8-11 regular season record indicates. Much better. Their schedule has been among the toughest in the state this season with the combined record of teams they lost to being 194-51. They have a dynamic point guard in Jada Cunningham, outside shooter in Taylor VanderVelde, and inside threat with Samiya Jami to match up with most teams. The Warriors could end up surprising a ton of people this offseason, but would need to start the magic immediately against city-rival Lincoln in the first round.
#9 Rapid City Central
There isn't a lot to back Rapid City Central in terms of records or numbers entering the tournament. The Cobblers are 0-5 this season against tournament teams losing those games by an average of 18 points. Not many people gave the Cobblers a chance against Brookings in the Round of 16 and RCC came out victorious in overtime 49-45. They will have another shot against Aberdeen Central, who the Cobblers only lost by 10 to in their first meeting. Juneau Jones is the highlighted player for Rapid City Central, and she brings a roster back to state that made a semifinal run last year. It's all about peaking at the right time.
The Class AA Combined State Tournament takes place March 15-17 at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.