SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Roosevelt boys basketball team completed a perfect 24-0 season with a Class ‘AA’ State Championship. That run led to the Rough Riders being named the 2022 KELOLAND Media Group Boys Team of the Year.
Roosevelt started the season 6-3 last year, but then they lost back-to-back games to fall to 6-5.
“We needed to come together. We needed to figure out what we needed to do differently to see some more success,” Roosevelt head coach Mitch Begeman said. “I think part of that was getting this group of guys, a little bit closer together.”
The Rough Riders would win their final eleven games of the season to claim the 2021 Class ‘AA’ State Championship, but that was just the beginning for the senior class of 2022.
“It started freshman year when we went undefeated and that’s when we really knew that we wanted to do this. Then sophomore year, we started talking about legacy and how we wanted to be remembered as Roosevelt basketball players. So that’s when the spark really started,” Roosevelt senior Micah Johnson said.
“I think our last loss was to Yankton in Yankton the year before and we went on that 10-11 win run to end the season,” Roosevelt senior Marcus Phillips said. “Starting this season, it really wasn’t a ‘let’s keep this streak going’ it was more of a let’s get some games under our belt and let’s get some comfortability in here and then we’ll go on our run.”
Roosevelt opened their title defense this season against westside rival, Jefferson. The Riders trailed by as many as 16, but a second half surge would lift Roosevelt past the Cavaliers, 64-59.
“This group again, showed their maturity, showed their toughness, showed their resilience of again, not wanting to lose and they figured out how to come back,” Begeman said. “I think for a group of kids that were first time players at the varsity level, that was a huge experience.”
The Rough Riders ran with that experience as they rattled off 15 straight wins to open the season. That’s when the idea of a perfect season came into play.
“Probably 15 games into the season, we were like ‘why lose now?’ At a certain point, it gets to there’s no really reason to give in,” Phillips said.
“We were winning games consistently, but there were some tough games though. We always pulled through,” Johnson said. “I would say around the fifteenth game, I knew that this was going to be the group and this was going to be our time. We’re going to win every game.”
Roosevelt won their final nine games of the season, including a 54-52 win over O’Gorman in the state championship.
“That was the best feeling in the world. It was a really tough season. There were hard fought games and that was probably one of the hardest fought games we had all season,” Johnson said. “That being the state championship, that was one of the best feelings just coming out with the win.”
Ten seniors donned the jersey for the Rough Riders this season and their accomplishments will be etched in history including back-to-back state titles, a class ‘AA’ record 35 game win streak and 448 days and counting since their last loss.
“Going into freshman year, we said as a group, we want to be the best team to come through Roosevelt and I think it’s safe to say, we accomplished that goal,” Phillips said.
“In my eyes, this is the best team that has ever come through Roosevelt and the best class. I think the record speaks for itself,” Begeman said.
The 2022 Roosevelt boys basketball team will go down as one of the best single seasons in South Dakota history and that’s why the Roosevelt Rough Riders are the Team of the Year.
“These kids put the work in for four years. They bought in to how they want to play and how we want them to play and they were coachable,” Begeman said. “That’s what I think is so rewarding and these kids deserve every recognition that they get, because of the amount of work that they put in.”
At the four levels of high school basketball (freshman, sophomore, junior varsity and varsity), Roosevelt’s class of 2022 went 81-2 with an undefeated freshman and senior season.