Chamberlain heads into state on 19-game win streakCHAMBERLAIN — When Chamberlain defeated Cheyenne-Eagle Butte in the Region 6A game, the Cubs did more than earn a berth to the state girls’ basketball tournament.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
CHAMBERLAIN — When Chamberlain defeated Cheyenne-Eagle Butte in the Region 6A game, the Cubs did more than earn a berth to the state girls’ basketball tournament.
The victory was the team’s 21st of the season, the most ever for a Chamberlain High School girls’ basketball squad. It also pushed the Cubs’ winning streak to 19 straight games.
“We’ve talked about what they’ve accomplished so far as a team,” said Chamberlain coach Jeff Neuharth, whose team plays Pine Ridge in the first round of the Class A state tournament at 7:45 p.m. Thursday in Watertown. “Certainly with the winning streak we have, we have a lot of confidence going into the tournament. But we understand there are some very, very good teams in there.”
In 1990, the Chamberlain girls’ basketball team went 20-4 en route to a fourth-place finish at the state tournament. It was one of two state appearances in Chamberlain girls’ basketball history, with the other a seventh-place finish coming in 2005.
This year, Chamberlain opened the season with two wins and was then dealt a 49-46 loss to Parkston. That’s the last time the Cubs (21-1) were defeated. The Cubs, one of three one-loss teams at the Class A state tournament, are the sixth seed because of regular-season seeding points, which are based off wins and strength of schedule.
Pine Ridge, the third seed, also comes into the tournament with one loss, a 52-51 defeat to Todd County. Neuharth said senior forward Jolonna Sazue is Pine Ridge’s top threat.
“Pine Ridge is a team that wants to get up and down the floor,” said Neuharth, a Freeman High School and Dakota Wesleyan University graduate. “They want to transition as much as they can, and we’re pretty good in the half-court defense. So we want to force them to play offense against our half-court defense. That’s one thing we’ve stressed in practice.”
Chamberlain starts three seniors and two juniors, with a wealth of scoring coming from several contributors.
Junior point guard Kennedy Wagner leads the team in points at 15 per game to go along with four rebounds and five assists.
Senior forward Jaymee Knippling averages nine points and seven rebounds, senior guard Alex Pederson averages eight points and four steals, and Logan Pickner and Abbey Handel each average seven points a game. Handel is a junior guard.
Pickner, a senior center, also averages seven rebounds and Corrina Reuer, a senior, is the first off the bench and averages eight points per game.
“All year long, we’ve shared the basketball very well,” Neuharth said. “We’ve had different players play big in crucial situations throughout the year. It’s been a different player every night. The ability to put six or seven players on the floor makes us very hard to guard and we’re very unselfish basketball team.”
Neuharth pointed to Harrisburg, the top seed with a record of 22-1, as the Class A favorite. Harrisburg, which plays Sioux Falls Christian in the first round, has not lost to a Class A team this year, as its only defeat came against Sioux Falls O’Gorman, a Class AA school.
In other first-round matchups, fourth-seeded Clark/Willow Lake plays fifth-seeded Aberdeen Roncalli and second-seeded Spearfish plays seventh-seeded West Central.