Athlete of the Week: Winner's Mathis big in region title gameKyle Mathis knew he had to be a leader this season. Winner’s boys’ basketball team came into the season hoping to make its third consecutive trip to the Class A state tournament, with Mathis being the only returning starter from last season.
By: Kevin Pottebaum, The Daily Republic
WINNER — Kyle Mathis knew he had to be a leader this season.
Winner’s boys’ basketball team came into the season hoping to make its third consecutive trip to the Class A state tournament, with Mathis being the only returning starter from last season.
“We told him that he was a real key, being the only returning starter and playing point guard,” Winner head coach Jim Drake said.
Mathis took the leadership role and ran with it. He is averaging 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and four assists per game.
In Winner’s 61-52 victory over Pine Ridge in the Region 7A championship game, Mathis scored a game-high 27 points while hauling down eight rebounds, as the Warriors clinched a berth in the state tournament.
For his efforts, Mathis has been named The Daily Republic’s athlete of the week, an award voted on by the newspaper’s sports staff.
“It was a really tough game,” Mathis said. “They were real physical. My teammates helped me out the whole game.”
“Obviously, he’s stepped up when he should and given us good senior leadership,” Drake said. “Down the stretch, he’s really come through.”
Mathis said he worked hard in the offseason and is playing at the level he was hoping to be at. He added that his play down the stretch of the season was motivated by wanting to go to the state tournament one last time.
“I just don’t want the season to be over with,” he said. “I was giving it everything I’ve got. Being a senior leader and getting our team (to the state tournament) for the third straight year is a great accomplishment.”
Mathis felt added pressure early in the season from being looked at as a team leader, but has accepted his role.
“There was some pressure on him,” Drake said. “Early in the year, he did a good job. For a while, we had to get him going. Against tougher competition, he’s responded.”
Mathis and his team take on Dell Rapids at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday at the Sioux Falls Arena for the first round of the Class A state tournament.
“We’ve got a tough road ahead,” Drake said. “Hopefully, the experience for Kyle and the whole team will be beneficial for us.”
“We’re playing one of the best teams in the state,” Mathis said. “We’ll be doing our best to continue how we’ve been doing. I just try and do my best, and if the team needs me, I try and step up.”