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Platte-Geddes forward Coby Johnson, right, goes up for a layup during the Class A boys’ basketball state tournament last year in Rapid City. This year, Johnson and the Black Panthers are set to compete in the Class B state tournament. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

Platte-Geddes to open against No. 2 Langford Area in Class B

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PLATTE — The Platte-Geddes boys’ basketball team is used to the underdog role.

The Black Panthers entered the Class A state boys’ basketball tournament last year as the eighth seed. Platte-Geddes had the task of taking on No. 1 seed Clark/Willow Lake, which featured Skyler Flatten, who plays for South Dakota State University.

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The Black Panthers walked away from the game with a 66-51 win over Clark/Willow Lake and went on to finish third at the tournament.

This year, Platte-Geddes enters the Class B state tournament in a similar role as the No. 7 seed at 6 p.m. Thursday. The Black Panthers take the court against No. 2 seed Langford Area.

“We know we might be a little bit outgunned physically and athletically,” Platte-Geddes junior Coby Johnson said Tuesday. “Because we are a low seed, we can come in care-free like last year and hopefully we can pull off the upset. I guess we just have to go out and play with reckless abandon.”

The Black Panthers had eight seniors on the team that upset Clark/Willow Lake and finished third at the Class A state tournament. Cutler said his squad this year is different because it is not as guard oriented and a little younger.

“This team has a much different style,” Cutler said. “We lost four starters and a lot of guards from that team. This year we are bigger. Kole Heller has done a great job as the point guard and Carter Dykstra has done a great job as the other guard for us.”

The Black Panthers have had a size advantage down low with Johnson, a 6-foot-5 junior, and Brady Peterson, a 6-foot-4 junior.

“We try to take advantage of that size defensively too, because it allows us to spread out on defense and get to the shooters,” Cutler said. “It has led us to some great rebounding games at times.”

Johnson, who is the only returning starter from last year’s squad, averages 20 points and nine rebounds per game. He’s improved from last year’s 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

Dykstra, a junior transfer from Dakota Christian, averages 13.5 points and six rebounds per game. Dykstra scored the game-winning bucket to beat Gregory in the Region 6B title game, which sent the Black Panthers to their second straight state tournament. Heller mans the point guard position and is responsible for taking care of the ball and running the Platte-Geddes offense. The senior is averaging 6.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

“I took it upon myself to be a leader this year because I knew I was going to be one of the seniors on the team,” Heller said. “I knew coming in that there were going to be some of the younger guys looking up to me. Last year we were a lot more quick, but this year we slow a lot of things down, but it works well because we are so big.”

Cutler, who is in his 25th season coaching is making his eighth state tournament appearance said his team has to find a way to defend Langford’s Bo Fries and Drew Planteen. Fries is a junior 6-foot-4 point guard, while Planteen is a 6-foot-3 senior forward, helping the Lions amass a 21-2 record.

Langford Area is riding a 12-game winning streak. The last time the Lions tasted defeat was Jan. 25 against James Valley Christian at the DWU Classic at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

“Fries is a very good all-around player and Planteen can handle the ball and get to the basket,” Cutler said. “We need to keep them off the glass and take away their second-chance points.”

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