Hoops Preview: Breaking down the high school basketball season

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The 2021-22 high school basketball season has begun for some schools, with the majority of teams taking to the court later this week.

Here’s a preview of all six classes and a look at 19 teams from across the state.

CLASS ‘AA’ BOYS

#1 ROOSEVELT ROUGH RIDERS

The Roosevelt boys won their first class ‘AA’ state title since 2014 with a 23 point win over O’Gorman in the championship game.

The Rough Riders will have plenty of production to replace with seven seniors plus another starter now gone. Senior Marcus Phillips is the lone returning starter from that championship team.

While the Rough Riders may not have the starting experience they are still a veteran group with 11 seniors on the roster and they feel they’re a deeper team than they were a year ago.

“This group is poised and they’re ready to go. They’re a hungry group. They finally got their opportunity. They sat behind a bunch of seniors last year and I know this group is ready to go. Once we get those first few games under our belt you’re going to see this group come alive I think,” Roosevelt head coach Mitch Begeman said.

The Rough Riders begin their title defense Saturday night as they play at new crosstown rival, Sioux Falls Jefferson.

#2 O’GORMAN KNIGHTS

O’Gorman is coming off a runner-up finish from last season and while they’ll have some key roles to replace they’ll look to lean on its seven seniors among others to fill that void.

The Knights have a great balance of size down low with David Alpers, John Costello, Chad Ambroz and Rush Landry all standing 6’5 or taller. Athletic wings like Emmanuel Struck and pure shooters like Matt Eng on the will be on the outside.

Head coach Derek Robey says athletically this team has the pieces to be a solid defensive group but playing together as one on both ends of the floor will be key if they wish to reach their ultimate goal.

“This group really has to develop and continue to learn of being in it for each other. You know, if we start playing team basketball the sky is the limit. If we start thinking this guy needs to score every time we’re going to struggle throughout the year because that’s not the characteristic of this basketball team,” Robey said.

O’Gorman opens its season at Brandon Valley on Friday night in the KELOLAND.com Livestream Game of the Week.

You can stream the action by visiting the Game of the Week page. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

T-#4 LINCOLN PATRIOTS

Coming in at number four in the ‘AA’ preseason poll are the Lincoln Patriots.

Last year, the Patriots faced some struggles winning just five games, although they were quite competitive in most of their losses.

The Patriots welcome back Calil Cece this season, along with plenty of size led by the seven foot sophomore, JT Rock.

“He’s got a family that keeps him pretty grounded. We as a coaching staff try and keep him pretty grounded and I know our seniors are trying to keep him grounded too and he respects that, he respects that. He try’s to be a leader and the seniors will remind him, ‘hey it’s not your turn yet JT.’ Yet he’s out there and wants to be that guy. So, like I said he’s just a fun kid to have around,” Lincoln head coach Jeff Halseth said.

The Patriots open the season at Washington this Friday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

T-#4 ABERDEEN CENTRAL GOLDEN EAGLES

Also coming in at number 4 is Aberdeen Central.

The Golden Eagles didn’t lose a single player to graduation from last year’s 5th place finish. Central played their best basketball of the season and that experience last year should be a strength heading into this season.

Alec Voegele, Sam Rohlfs, Noah Behrens, AJ Hase and Spencer Barr give head coach Brett Norberg talent across the floor and that’s what will make the Golden Eagles a tough team to defend throughout the season.

“We really feel that we have different guys even off the bench that when they play to their strengths they can find a way to score. You know everyone’s got things they don’t do as well, but our guys are really good at playing to what they do well,” Norberg said. “The experience factor is big. There’s no more, ‘well I’m not able to do that,’ so they don’t try it. They try to get to what they can do, get other guys to where they can be, get them to their best spots on the floor and a lot of times that makes for a tough offense to guard.”

The Golden Eagles head out west for their season opener as they play at Rapid City Central on Friday night.


CLASS ‘AA’ GIRLS

#1 WASHINGTON WARRIORS

Ndjakalenga Mwenentanda – Washington Warriors

Defending class ‘AA’ state champion Washington lost four starters to graduation last year.

Player of the Year finalist NdJakalanga Mwenentanda is back, along with four key reserves from a year ago in Brooklyn and Hannah Harpe, Alexus Motley and Taylor Thompson who are all expected to have bigger roles.

Replacing their 6’5 center, Sydni Schetnan will be the biggest question mark heading into the year. Thompson slides into that post role for the Warriors, but they’ll need a group effort to replace Schetnan’s presence inside.

“We’re going to do it by committee. Taylor can play that post but she also has some perimeter skills. The thing that makes us unique is Brooklyn, Hannah, Alexus and Ndjakalenga are all long enough that they can do some things around the hoop too. We’re experimenting right now. What does that look like? It’s not going to be the same as one big kid roaming around there, we’re going to try to move people and create different matchups,” Washington head coach Jamie Parish said.

The Warriors open their season Thursday night at Lincoln.

#2 O’GORMAN KNIGHTS

The O’Gorman girls have some key pieces to replace with Isabelle Moore and Raegen Reilly gone from last year, but the Knights do return Colorado State signee Hannah Ronsiek and SDSU commit Mahli Abdouch.

Senior Hannah Friedmann and juniors Bergen Reilly and Kira Mentele give the Knights experience and some size down low. Head Coach Kent Kolsrud likes the blend of talent and size this team has but knows developing depth in the bench will be key if the Knights are to make a run toward a state title.

“Kids are in competition fighting for spots off the bench. Feel like we have some really good, nice young players. Skilled players, we just have to give them opportunities. They need to earn roles,” Kolsrud said. “We’ve got to get them varsity game experience and we know those kids will continue to progress over the course of the season. When we get to March and get to tournament time we need those kids to really be ready to play and give us good varsity minutes.”

O’Gorman clashes with number three Brandon Valley Thursday night to kick off their season.

#3 BRANDON VALLEY LYNX

Brandon Valley sit third in the preseason poll, following last season’s fourth place finish in the state tournament.

The Lynx return a list of experienced players including Sidney Thue, Kylie Foss, Hilary Behrens and much more.

Size should be an advantage for BV as they have seven players at 5’9 or taller. With the returning experience, the Lynx are hoping to push the pace on the court.

“In our returners, I think we bring back some dynamic playmakers and dynamic athletes. I think we’ll hopefully try to push the pace. I think everybody says that right away at the start of the year. I want to push the pace, I want to play with pace and I want to get up and down. But at the same time, I think we’re a team that can do that,” Brandon Valley head coach Mike Zerr said.

Brandon Valley will play at O’Gorman on Thursday at 7 p.m.

#4 RAPID CITY STEVENS RAIDERS

Rapid City Stevens finished as state runner-ups a year ago.

The Raiders will have a trio of starters to replace but have plenty of talent back with senior guard Jayda McNabb and post players Bailey Sobczak and Jaden Matkins all returning.

Jill Delzer and Taliyah Porter both saw significant time last year and will expect to have larger roles this year among others.

The biggest change for Stevens this year comes in the coaching ranks where former Raiders boys assistant Adam Dannenbring takes over as the program’s new head coach.

“He’s very understanding. He’s already adapted really well into our culture that we’ve had the past couple years in this gym. the fact that he understands the culture in the lady raider gym means a lot to us,” Stevens senior guard Jillian Delzer said.

“I’ve got such good kids to work with. the senior girls invited me out after I was hired and had supper together. They talked about what their goals and their expectations are. They made it a really easy transition,” Stevens head coach Adam Dannenbring said.

Rapid City Stevens tips-off their season Friday night at Pierre.


CLASS ‘A’ BOYS

#1 SIOUX FALLS CHRISTIAN CHARGERS

Sioux Falls Christian lost a senior trio from its state championship roster last year and will need to fill the void in their starting lineup after those three’s departure.

Brooks Nelson and Jaden Witte are the two returning starters from last year, while Nathan Koole filled in a starting role late in the season. Isaiah Mulder and Tate Snyder both were key players last year too and are among a group of six that head coach Mike Schouten will rely on early as they build up their bench.

Those six seeing what it takes to win a state championship will be vital to the Chargers success this season.

“We’re going to rely on that a lot. For those kids to provide that kind of leadership and just having that experience of knowing they can do it should help us a lot this year because obviously their goal is they want to try and get back to the state tournament and maybe even try to win it again,” Schouten said.

“That definitely brought experience to the team and a lot of tight games I think we played in that’s going to prepare us for this year, state tournament this year. Put us into those situations we know how to react when they happen,” SFC senior center Nathan Koole said.

#2 SIOUX VALLEY COSSACKS

Sioux Valley would stage quite the comeback in last years class ‘A’ state semi finals against Dakota Valley, before ultimately falling short in the state championship against Sioux Falls Christian.

This year Sioux Valley returns plenty of fire power including senior Hayden Ruesink, Parker Puetz, all-state guard, Oliver Vincent and 6’9 sophomore Alex Squires.

“It’s heartbreaking when you get that close and don’t have it happen and at the same time our guys are very proud of the journey and the ride that they were on. Getting to where they got and that’s the same thing with these guys, they know it’s part of their job to carry it one step further,” Sioux Valley head coach Bill Vincent said.

“A group of guys that are connected through God through everything through school through family. A connected group of guys that really loves each other and hopefully to be winners when it’s all said and done,” Sioux Valley junior Oliver Vincent said.

The Cossacks open the season Saturday as they host Clark Willow Lake.


CLASS ‘A’ GIRLS

#1 WINNER WARRIORS

Winner is this year’s class ‘AA’ preseason number one, but they’ll have to replace five seniors and two starters.

The Warriors will start their five seniors this season, including Ellie Brozik, Kelsey Sachtjen and four year starter, Bella Swedlund. While the starting lineup will have plenty of experience, the depth off the bench will not. Winner’s main focus early will be building that depth to help them prepare for later in the season.

“I think that’s one thing going in this season that we might be lacking a little bit, is our depth. You know, early on, we’re going to try to get that depth developed, because we need some strong bench play,” Winner head coach Larry Aaker said.

The Warriors will open the season against a tough opponent as they are set to host Wagner on Friday.

#5 FLANDREAU FLIERS

Flandreau checks in at number five in the preseason poll, following a 14-7 season that saw them fall in the SoDak 16.

The Fliers return three starters from last season and a group of young players that gained a lot of experience. They also return plenty of length and athleticism.

The goal for Flandreau is to play in the state tournament as they have been so close to that goal in the past two seasons.

“Going through getting to a state tournament and not getting to play in it and then the following year losing in overtime. They’ve been as close as you can possibly get to getting the experience that I now we’re all fighting for. So, they’re are hungry,” Flandreau head coach Megan Severtson said.

“We were in the gym this summer, all the time. We really want it this year. It’s really a chip on our shoulder,” Flandreau sophomore Claire Sheppard said.

Flandreau opens the season at home on Thursday, December 9. They’ll meet Chester Area at 7:00 p.m.

R.V. TEA AREA TITANS

Tea Area is fresh off a 14-6 season a year ago, where they fell to Dakota Valley in the SoDak 16.

The Titans return most of their fire power including three year starter Grace Stansbury, Cassidy Gors and sophomore standout, Katie Vasecka, who recently committed to SDSU.

Having graduated two starters and returning a talented and deep roster, the open starting spots have been up for grabs.

“You know its been good. We see a lot of bumps and bruises, but a lot of girls that are fighting for the ball and stuff like that too, so it’s been good,” Tea Area head coach Adam Schorzmann said. “We’ve got some pretty good underclassmen as well, kind of a smaller group of juniors but then we have a pretty good sophomore group. They’ve all been kind of accepting their roles of competing at this level.”

Tea Area will open the season on the road against Dakota Valley.


CLASS ‘B’ BOYS

#1 DE SMET BULLDOGS

The De Smet Bulldogs enter the new season atop the class ‘B’ preseason poll, after their first state title since 1999.

They will have to replace two starters from last years team but with defensive specialist Rhett Osthus, 6’9 forward Damon Wilkinson and standout guard Kalen Garry who averaged 23 points per game last year, they’ll have plenty of fire power returning.

“Everything’s zero-zero now. We have to work hard in practice everyday and good things will happen but we don’t pay attention to all that stuff, we just work hard in practice everyday, get better, build relationships and chemistry with our teammates and have a winning mentality going into every game,” De Smet senior Kalen Garry said.

White River will host Jones County on Friday at 6:30.

#2 WHITE RIVER TIGERS

White River checks in at number two in the preseason prep media poll, coming off their fifth place finish in last year’s state tournament.

The Tigers went 19-6 a year ago and graduated four seniors, but return three starters including Dylan Marshall, Nicolas Marshall and their leading scorer in Joe Sayler.

White River graduated a majority of their size, meaning this year’s team will look to turn up the tempo.

“The kids we have this year are a little faster and quicker and I feel that’s more of the style of play that I like to see our guys play and I think the guys like that a lot,” White River head coach Eldon Marshall said.

“We’ll probably score points that way, but we’ve got to play defense first. I think that’s where it all starts is playing together and playing defense and getting out and running,” White River junior guard Joe Sayler said.

White River will host Jones County on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

#3 ABERDEEN CHRISTIAN KNIGHTS

Last year’s state runner-up lands at number three in this year’s preseason poll. Aberdeen Christian went 20-5 a year ago and suffered a loss to De Smet in the state championship.

The Knights return three starters including Ethan Russell, Malek Wieker and Jackson Isakson, all of which averaged more than ten points per game a year ago.

Aberdeen Christian allowed just 44 points per game defensively last season and they’re hoping to continue that trend this season.

“I think if you want to be successful from a night in and night out basis and even a year in to year out basis. That’s the one thing you have to consistently preach and consistently have as your calling card is that identity on defense,” Aberdeen Christian head coach David Rohrback said.

“We started defense drills the first day of practice and for us, our offense is pretty talented and so we don’t have to worry too much about that, but defense will definitely be a focus point for us,” Aberdeen Christian junior guard Malek Wieker said.

The Knights will open the season on the road in Huron against James Valley Christian on Saturday.


CLASS ‘B’ GIRLS

#1 ABERDEEN RONCALLI CAVALIERS

Aberdeen Roncalli celebrates 2021 State Championship

Aberdeen Roncalli is the defending class ‘A’ state champion, but made the move to class ‘B’ this season. They are ranked as the preseason number one.

The Cavaliers relied on their defense in last year’s state championship run and that should be their strength again.

Roncalli graduated just one senior from last year and they return a list of talented players including Olivia Hanson, Morgan Fiedler and Madelyn Bragg.

“There’s not as much teaching, especially early in the year as we’ve had in the past. You know all the players that are pretty much playing have played the past several years. It’s really coming up with different things in practice to be competitive with each other,” Aberdeen Roncalli Derek Larson said.

“Every single practice we’re bringing our best and we’re focused. We’re hopefully aiming to qualify to the state tournament again and hopefully win a second time, but I think we’re all just serious about it this year,” Aberdeen Roncalli senior Madelyn Bragg said.

Roncalli will open the season on Friday at Deuel.

#2 CORSICA-STICKNEY JAGUARS

Corsica-Stickney celebrates SoDak 16 win

Corsica-Stickney sits second in the class ‘B’ preseason poll, following last year’s fourth place finish in the state tournament.

The Jaguars lost four players to graduation last year, but return ten players including three starters in Rachel Gerlach, Morgan Clites and Avery Broughton.

Broughton is coming off an ACL injury that sidelined her for most of last season. Now the USD commit returns to the floor, which should give a boost to the Jaguars.

“Her leadership as a lot of the girls look up to her on the floor. She demands a lot from her teammates, but they rally around that and so that’s kind of the big thing about having her on the floor,” Corsica-Stickney head coach Lorisa Broughton said.

“The mental toughness is just, to get through something like that, you really just gain perspective on that kind of thing. It was just a long process and I’m thankful we’re towards the end of it obviously and it’s just nice to be back playing with the girls,” Corsica-Stickney junior forward Avery Broughton said.

Corsica-Stickney will play at Chamberlain on Thursday at 7:45 p.m.

DE SMET BULLDOGS

De Smet finished with a 9-11 record a year ago and would fall just short of advancing to the SoDak 16 with a loss against Castlewood.

The Bulldogs have just 2 seniors on the roster this season including 1,000 point scorer and third team all-state performer Kennadi Buchholz.

“She has our leading scorer last year and averaged 18.5 points per game and 10 rebounds. She worked extremely hard for the points she got. She’s just an extremely great basketball player, team player, motivates everybody, a leader on and off the court. Just a great student and a great athlete,” De Smet head coach Brendon Pitts said.

“I hope for our team that we make it to the state tournament obviously, but for myself to keep working hard every single game and do the best I can and keep pushing my teammates,” De Smet senior Kennadi Buchholz said.

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