Eight Platte-Geddes seniors go out on winRAPID CITY — Just outside the locker room, Platte-Geddes’ Tate Van Zee and Hunter Johnson wrapped up the season Saturday with a hug.
By: Aaron Saunders, The Daily Republic
RAPID CITY — Just outside the locker room, Platte-Geddes’ Tate Van Zee and Hunter Johnson wrapped up the season Saturday with a hug.
The two Platte-Geddes High School boys’ basketball players just finished competing in the Class A state tournament’s third-place game, which they helped their team win 47-34 over against Mobridge-Pollock at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. The game sent Van Zee, Johnson and six other seniors out with a win in their last high school basketball contest.
“It feels great to get a win in our final game,” Johnson said. “We came out and played like we’ve have been since fifth grade, and that’s what we did.”
Last year, Platte-Geddes missed its opportunity to get to the Class A state tournament. The Black Panthers fell in the region finals to Tri-Valley 55-41 and had their hopes for a state tournament run dashed.
While the team was hurt because it didn’t reach the state tournament, many of the Platte-Geddes players knew they would have another chance the next season. Going into this season, Platte-Geddes returned a veteran-laden squad, highlighted by eight seniors.
The squad rebounded from last year’s region loss, defeating McCook Central/Montrose in this year’s Region 5A final to earn a Class A berth. The Black Panthers upset top-seeded Clark/Willow Lake in the first round at state, lost to Tea Area in the semifinals, but bounced back with a third-place finish. They finished the season 18-8.
“We had a great season and I am really glad I was a part of this Black Panther team,” Van Zee said. “I don’t want it to be over. I have had a lot of awesome memories with this team.”
Reaching the state tournament was a dream fulfilled for every member of the Platte-Geddes basketball team. But the season took on a special meaning for the eight seniors, as none had ever competed in a state tournament.
While the Black Panthers finished the season with a win and on a high note, the road to the finish was not always easy. In the middle of the season Platte-Geddes lost six of eight games, including four straight losses during that span.
But the Black Panthers didn’t panic. They said they relied on familiarity with each and cohesiveness as a team to rebound. After the tough stretch, they won 10 of their next 11 games and qualified for the state tournament.
An eighth seed heading into the tournament, Platte-Geddes recorded one of its greatest highlights of the season Friday with its win over Clark/Willow Lake, which was unbeaten before the game and finished the season with only one loss.
With the Black Panthers’ third-place finish, this becomes the third team head coach Frank Cutler has coached to finish the state tournament in third place. Only the 2008 Class A state championship team and the 2009 runner-up squad finished higher.
“In the history of Platte and Geddes basketball, only a couple teams have finished better than this squad and that is a great accomplishment,” Cutler said. “For our program, this is a great way to finish the season. They have been a great group, they have worked hard to get where we are at, and I am happy that they go out with a win.”
All of the seniors on the Platte-Geddes team include Van Zee, Johnson, Matthew Randall, Richard Sternberg, Turner Antonsen, Drew Turnis, Zach Warejcka and Connor Kuipers.