Platte-Geddes looks to knock off top seed in first roundPLATTE — Platte-Geddes coach Frank Cutler is no stranger to the Class A state boys’ basketball tournament.
By: Aaron Saunders, The Daily Republic
PLATTE — Platte-Geddes coach Frank Cutler is no stranger to the Class A state boys’ basketball tournament.
Since he has been at the helm of the program, Cutler has made nine state tournament appearances.
Included in those state tournament runs was one championship in 2008, one state runner-up trophy in 2009 and two third-place finishes in 2002 and 2004.
The coach, who is in his 25th year at Platte and headed to his 10th state tournament, said he hopes his experience can help his team succeed at the Class A state tournament, which begins today in Rapid City.
“One thing I hope I can do is help them be comfortable heading into game time,” Cutler said. “It will be a new experience for all of them, and hopefully we can get them comfortable and ready to play their best.”
The eighth-seeded Black Panthers begin their tournament play against top-seeded Clark/Willow Lake at 1 p.m. Central time at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
The last time Cutler and the Black Panthers made the Class A state tournament was 2009 and the 2013 squad has no holdovers from that team.
Last year, Platte-Geddes finished 14-8 and fell to Tri-Valley in the region finals.
This season, the Black Panthers returned eight seniors and finished 16-7 en route to earning their state tournament berth.
“It’s a great pleasure to go there our senior year and hopefully we will win some games,” Platte-Geddes guard Richard Sternberg said. “We have been playing with each other since third and fourth grade so this state tournament is very important.”
While Platte-Geddes has a winning record and a state tournament bid, the road to these accomplishments was not always easy.
At one point in the season, the team lost six of eight games, including a four-game skid from Jan. 12 to Jan. 22.
“This season has been a little up and down for us,” Platte-Geddes forward Hunter Johnson said. “We started off strong, then we had a little slump in the middle of the season, but we pulled it together and have been playing well together ever since.”
To earn its state tournament berth, Platte-Geddes defeated McCook Central/Montrose in the Region 5A finals.
The Black Panthers fell to the Fighting Cougars at the Hanson Classic earlier this season. Coby Johnson led Platte-Geddes in scoring in the region final with 15 points.
Johnson was also the Black Panthers’ leading scorer this year averaging 13.2 points per game. Matthew Randall averages 9.9 points per game, while Tate Van Zee and Sternberg average 9.1 and 9.0 points per game, respectively.
As a team, Platte-Geddes is averaging 56 points per game, while its opponents are averaging 48.
“This is a really special year for us because a lot of us won’t really have a chance to play basketball again,” senior forward Connor Kuipers said.
Clark/Willow Lake finished sixth at the state tournament last season and is 21-0 this season. The Cyclones are led by South Dakota State University commit Skyler Flatten.
“We are going into the tournament as the eighth seed, so it is going to be a bit of a challenge for us,” Cutler said. “We are excited about the chance to play Clark/Willow Lake. … They are a great rebounding team and they are kind of explosive. … They have a great player in Flatten and a couple of other kids that can score, and we need to be able to slow them down.”