Winner hopes to play in Friday night gameThe Winner boys’ basketball team is making its third consecutive trip to the Class A state tournament today. The Warriors take on Dell Rapids at 2:45 p.m. at Sioux Falls Arena.
By: Kevin Pottebaum, The Daily Republic
The Winner boys’ basketball team is making its third consecutive trip to the Class A state tournament today. The Warriors take on Dell Rapids at 2:45 p.m. at Sioux Falls Arena.
Head coach Jim Drake hopes that the team can come through with an opening-round victory this year.
The Warriors took seventh place at the state tournament last year and fifth in 2010, losing first-round matchups to McCook Central/Montrose (2010) and Viborg/Hurley (2011).
“We’d love to be playing Friday night in the semifinals,” Drake said. “That’s certainly our goal. The last few years we haven’t been able to do that.”
Winner wasn’t helped out by its draw this weekend.
The Warriors’ 19-4 record was good for the No. 5 seed in the tournament, but No. 4 Dell Rapids (19-4) is considered one of the elite teams.
“Talent-wise, I think they have the most in the state,” Drake said. “We’ve got to outwork them and play as well as we can to have a shot against them.
“We’ll probably have to play our best game of the year,” Drake added. “But it’s a great opportunity, and we look forward to the challenge.”
Dell Rapids was ranked No. 1 in Class A, but back-to-back losses to Dakota Valley and Class B’s top-ranked White River dropped the Quarriers in the polls.
The final boys’ basketball poll, published on Feb. 28, had Dell Rapids ranked third in Class A.
“We’re not short-changing ourselves and hoping just to give them a good game and be satisfied,” Drake said. “They’ve shown that they're vulnerable and can be beat.”
If the Warriors can knock off Dell Rapids today, their next game would likely be even more of a challenge. Winner would most likely square off with top-ranked St. Thomas More (21-2).
“It’s funny,” Drake said. “Everyone was congratulating the team last week, saying, ‘Nice job, tough draw.’ ”
The Warriors start four seniors with the hope of finishing their high school basketball careers on a high note. Kyle Mathis leads the team, averaging 14.1 points per game.
“We’d like to get into the Friday night games,” Mathis said. “We’re playing one of the best teams in the state. We’ll be doing our best to continue how we’ve been doing.”
Austin Schroeder leads the team in rebounding, averaging 8.5 rebounds a contest to go along with his 8.8 points per game.
Donovan Brother of All averages 7.1 points per game and leads the team in steals.
“He’s been our spark plug all year on defense,” Drake said.
Nathan Naasz is the fourth senior starter for the Warriors. He averages 6 points per game along with 3.5 rebounds a game.
Ben Connot, the long-starting junior, averages 12.6 points a game for Winner.
One key for the Warriors this season has been the depth of the team.
“You’ve got to give our other five credit,” Drake said.
Drake mentioned that his core of substitutes was the main reason for Winner’s 61-52 win over Pine Ridge in the Region 7A championship.
“We were down nine points with four or five minutes to go in the half, and we put in our second unit and they cut it down to one,” he said. “That was the key to the game. They gave us an opportunity to play in the state tournament.”
The second unit for the Warriors consists of seniors Anthony Husher and Austin Calhoon along with juniors Tanner Fritz, Isiah Old Lodge and Kyle Bertram.
Old Lodge was the most productive of the group during the season, averaging 5.3 points and 4 rebounds per game.
“We’ve been spoiled,” Drake said. “We’re fortunate that we have some good athletes. It’s nice to know that you can have 10 guys play in a game and all contribute.”