The Winner girls basketball team is doing whatever it takes this season.
Fueled by last season's disappointment, the Warriors are undefeated and currently No. 2 in this week's Class A South Dakota Prep Media Basketball Poll. It's no surprise considering Winner returned all but one player from last season's 19-3 team and added Elk Point-Jefferson transfer Kalla Bertram to the fold.
"We have a good group of girls that have been working hard and they just have that motivation from last year and they are willing to do whatever it takes," Winner coach Larry Aaker said. "That's our motto this year is whatever it takes and so far they've been taking that to heart."
The Warriors' motivation stems from their 69-38 defeat against Pine Ridge in the region semifinals.
"We knew we had a good nucleus coming back and I think from that day, these girls have kind of had a chip on their shoulder and they took that loss pretty hard," Aaker said.
They haven't lost since and at 13-0, are one of two undefeated Class A girls basketball teams. West Central (11-0) is the other Class A girls team without a defeat.
The Warriors have outscored their opponents by an average of 26 points this season, but they've also won a pair of close contests against Class A foes Todd County (60-58) and Pine Ridge (57-56).
Winner rallied in both games and Aaker said those scenarios will help once the postseason rolls around.
"You can try to simulate that in practice all you want," Aaker said. "But having a close game like that and being able to execute the last few seconds and come away with a victory, I think is a huge confidence boost for us."
The Warriors are averaging 65 points per contest and they've scored 60 or more points in 10 games this season.
"We play an uptempo type game," Aaker said. "We like to press and get out in transition offensively. I would say defensively our pressure has definitely helped us and then obviously that leads to transition and easy buckets."
Winner is receiving buckets from a host of players. Freshman Bella Swedlund was recovering from an ACL injury last season and played in the final five games of the season. She's leading the Warriors in scoring this season at 15 points per game and has scored in double figures in 11 games.
"That was a huge boost for us getting her back and having her back at full strength," Aaker said. "She wasn't anywhere near what she is used to playing at and she worked her tail off all summer, all fall to get back and the last few games she's really been playing well."
Senior Gabriel Kocer (11.4) and junior all-stater Morgan Hammerbeck (10.6) also pace the offense for the Warriors, who go 10 players deep on most nights.
"It's just been really balanced and that's really what we kind of stress is that balanced scoring," Aaker said.
Up next, the Warriors host perennial power St. Thomas More on Friday. The Cavaliers have won six of the last seven state titles, including five straight.
"Coach (Brandon) Kandolin does an awesome job and they are so fundamentally sound offensively and defensively," Aaker said. "It's going to be a good test and we will find out where we are at just past this midpoint of the season."