South Central boys enjoying successBONESTEEL — South Central boys’ basketball coach Clayton Steele thinks he made the mistake of playing his some of his current starters when they weren’t ready.
By: Brooke Cersosimo, The Daily Republic
BONESTEEL — South Central boys’ basketball coach Clayton Steele thinks he made the mistake of playing his some of his current starters when they weren’t ready.
“We felt like we started them too young,” said Steele, referring to seniors Tyler Frank and Dakota Votaw, who saw regular starts as sophomores and earned varsity playing time as freshmen.
Despite those early “mistakes,” the experience gained by years of growing pains is paying off.
The Cougars are having their best season since Steele took over the program in 2006 with a 17-1 record. Since the towns — Bonesteel, Fairfax and Burke — co-oped for basketball in 2002, the Cougars have not had a winning season and haven’t been a state tournament qualifier. South Central’s closest record to a winning season was last year when it went 10-11.
“I attribute most of the success to that experience they’ve had,” said Steele, who’s in his 44th year of coaching. “We’ve had years where we’ve only won one to three games. … Now the kids play together and gel pretty well.”
Frank is leading the team with an average of 17.8 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game. Votaw is averaging 12 points per game and is leading the team in assists with 5.2 per game. Junior Sam Hazen has an average of 9.5 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game. Seniors Garrett Bruns and Josh Tuttle round out the starting lineup for the Cougars and are averaging 3.6 points per game and 8.2 points per game this season.
South Central hasn’t lost to a Class B opponent yet this season and has topped several Class A teams, including a double-overtime thriller against Wagner Jan. 8.
“We’ve had a bit of luck and if those games went the other way, we wouldn’t be where we are,” said Steele, whose team won in another overtime battle against North Central, Neb., early in the season.
Although the Cougars only have one loss, which was against Platte-Geddes in their fourth game of the season, they aren’t ranked in the South Dakota Sportswriters Class B poll, nor are they receiving votes.
But Steele is OK with that.
“Rankings just get you beat,” he said. “I don’t know if I want to be ranked. We’re happy to be where we are and feel like we can play with anybody.”
With the success the team is having, excitement is brewing in the area as the postseason approaches.
“Everybody is talking about the team and is pleased with the way the kids are playing,” said Steele, whose team lost in last year’s District 12 championship game to Tripp-Delmont/Armour.
South Central has never made it to the state tournament since the co-op. The last time any of the schools made it to state was more than 50 years ago, when Bonesteel made the Class B tournament in 1959.
“We’d like to make it, yeah,” Steele said. “The goal in our minds and something we always work for is to win districts. We have a lot of tough teams in our district, so we can’t think past the game ahead of us.”
The Cougars will be the No. 1 seed in their district as the team behind them — Dakota Christian — has a record of 8-9 on the year.
South Central looks to keep its reign over Class B teams as it hosts Colome at 8 tonight in Burke.