Matthew Mors called his coach Chris Haynes after making his decision.
The Yankton power forward had just ended his recruitment and committed to Wisconsin in late September. Haynes said Mors stayed level headed and didn’t get caught up in the recruiting hoopla, but he could feel the relief in the phone call.
“You could definitely feel a weight coming off his shoulders after he made his decision,” Haynes said. “He called me on his way home from Madison and you could just kind of hear it in his voice.”
The weight off his shoulders isn’t just a metaphor either as Mors gears up for his junior campaign.
“He’s really worked hard to get his body ready again,” Haynes said. “He’s slimmed down a little bit. He’s playing at 6-7, 220 to 225 pounds this year, which is a little lighter than he played last year. Hopefully that will make him a little more athletic and be able to move side to side and get up and down the floor a little better.”
Mors will again shoulder the load for Yankton, which has turned into a Class AA power during his four-year career. Mors began his varsity career as a seventh-grader, was an all-stater as an eighth-grader and powered the Bucks to a state title as a freshman.
They graduated six seniors from last season’s fourth-place finish as Mors will be leading a host of new faces this season.
“He’s definitely been a leader for us,” Haynes said. “He’s definitely been a leader the last couple years, but I think now with so many new faces and newer kids that leadership role is really falling squarely on his shoulders and he’s really embraced that more and become a better leader for us.”
Senior point guard Cooper Cornemann and senior center Hunter Kotrous are the only other players with extended varsity minutes from last season.
“We only have six of our 15 varsity guys even practiced with us on the varsity floor last year,” Haynes said. “We will see if we can’t build some chemistry and some guys can start finding some roles here early in the season.”
The Bucks will be right in the thick of the Class AA race. Yankton was picked No. 2 in the preseason South Dakota Prep Media Basketball Poll. Sioux Falls O’Gorman was No. 1 in the poll.
Haynes pointed to a number of Class AA teams that will right in the hunt for state-tournament berths this season. In addition to O’Gorman, he singled out Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, Harrisburg and Brandon Valley as contenders. He also tabbed Eastern South Dakota Conference foes Huron and Aberdeen Central as top teams, while saying Mitchell, Pierre and Brookings are on the rise.
“I think AA is very deep again this year and a lot of solid teams,” Haynes said. “I think right now there are eight, maybe 10 teams that at end of the year can be the ones standing last on Saturday night.”
This is ‘Full-court Press’
Basketball teams from all over the state tipped off Friday and that means four months of packing gyms in the bitter cold. It also means four months of buzzer-beaters, outstanding individual performances and memorable milestones.
We’ll pass along those moments in this format all season long, and we want you to also be in on the fun this season. Throughout the year, if there’s a game-winning 3-pointer, a rim-rattling dunk or a 1,000-point scorer, we want to know about it.
Capture the moment on video or photo, share it with us and we will share it on this weekly column.
The page, which will go online every Saturday, will also be a hodgepodge of basketball notes and nuggets from around the state for you all to enjoy.
It comes exclusively from The Daily Republic at mitchellrepublic.com.
We have our first buzzer-beater(s) of the season.
Brendan Wentland and Mason Odens both hit buzzer-beaters to lift Corsica-Stickney to a 60-59 win over Bridgewater-Emery on Friday.
Wentland’s 3-pointer sent the game into overtime, while Odens banked in a putback offensive rebound as time expired to propel the Jaguars to the win. Odens finished with just four points, but none bigger than the final two of the night.
Friday night’s honor roll
There were no shortage of big individual performances during Friday’s season-opening action. Here’s a look at some of the top individual games from Friday night:
Kalen Garry tossed in 36 points in No. 1 De Smet’s 76-42 win over Estelline-Hendricks.
Canton's Kayden Verley stuffed the stat sheet (25 points, 8 rebounds, 7 steals) in a 67-59 win over Elk Point-Jefferson. Adam Grashoff finished with 22 points and 17 boards in a losing effort.
Connor Libis had 22 points and eight rebounds as Dell Rapids St. Mary scored a 57-45 win over Colman-Egan. Dalton Voelker had 17 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.
Gradee Sherman paced No. 2 Viborg-Hurley to an 83-29 win over Freeman. The junior finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five steals.
Mors tossed in 24 points and collected four rebounds to power No. 2 Yankton to a 77-48 win over Spearfish.
Tash Lunday finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists as Flandreau knocked off Chester Area, 71-31.
Caden Casey and Ryder Kirsch both scored 21 points as No. 1 St. Thomas More defeated Chamberlain, 66-52. Casey drilled five 3-pointers.
Jaden Frank’s 21 points, seven steals and three assists led Burke to a 63-24 win over Scotland. Bryce Frank added 20 points and four rebounds.
Ady Dwight led Langford Area with 22 points, seven steals and 5 rebounds in a 61-19 win over Leola/Frederick Area.
Kennedy Leiferman was all over the stat sheet with 23 points, eight boards and five assists in Kimball/White Lake’s 46-42 win over Burke.
Bella Swedlund pumped in 25 points as No. 1 Winner picked up a 71-36 victory over Wagner.
Emilee Fox (24 points) and Katlyn Briggs (22 points) powered Mount Vernon/Plankinton to a 74-46 victory over Gregory.
Shalayne Nagel scored a game-high 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and swatted five shots as Avon knocked off Marty, 63-36.
Tyce Ortman finished with 21 points in Canistota’s 73-27 win over Centerville.
Brendan Wentland led Corsica-Stickney with 24 points (5 3-pointers) in a 60-59 overtime win over Bridgewater-Emery. He also nailed a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.
In case you missed it, here are some links to recent prep basketball stories from The Daily Republic:
Some matchups to keep an eye on to start the season:
- Huron and Mitchell doubleheader on Saturday. Kernels. Tigers. Huron Arena. What a fun way to start the season. Huron, which is powered by all-staters Kobe Busch and Teegan Evers, are among the top teams in Class AA. The Kernels have made positive strides under third-year coach Todd Neuendorf and he’ll have his team ready for this rivalry matchup.
Howard and Lemmon boys at the Sanford Pentagon on Saturday. This won’t jump off the page to the average basketball fan. But it’s an intriguing matchup between teams on opposite ends of the state looking to make an early-season impression. The Tigers have six players 6-foot-3 or taller and could be a Class B sleeper this season. Lemmon returns everybody from a SoDak 16 berth and its football team advanced to the Class 9AA semifinals in the fall. The Tigers and Cowboys have potential to make deep runs and this could be a good barometer for both teams.
Ethan at Hanson girls on Saturday in Alexandria. The Rustlers and Beavers have had some memorable battles through the years and always seem to open the season against each other. They will again on Saturday and you can expect the unexpected in this one.
Three high-scoring juniors are closing in on 2,000-point milestones that will be worth tracking this season.
Mors is already Yankton’s all-time leading scorer with 1,743 career points and he’s No. 3 on the Class AA all-time scoring list. The Wisconsin commit surpassed Mitchell’s Mike Miller for No. 3 on the last with 24 points on Friday night. Aberdeen Central’s Eric Kline is No. 1 all-time in Class AA with 2,025 points, while Watertown’s Jason Sutherland is No. 2 at 1,899.
Dell Rapids St. Mary’s Connor Libis has pumped in 1,631 career points and could also crack the 2,000-point plateau this season. The 5-foot-7 guard averaged 27 points per game last season and will likely score in bunches again for the Cardinals.
For those wondering, the boys basketball all-time scoring record is 3,521 by White River’s Louie Krogman.
Speaking of White River, Caelyn Valandra-Prue is the other player nearing 2,000 career points. Valandra-Prue has tossed in 1,584 career points and the milestone is within striking distance this season. The multi-sport standout recorded 537 points during her sophomore campaign.
Mitchell Christian’s Jill Young is the state’s all-time leading scorer in girls basketball with 3,317 points.
Any other milestones we should know about this season? Make sure to email them to email@example.com or tweet @RyanDeal_DR. We want every 1,000-point scorer to be mentioned in this column. Let us know.
Preseason polls are just a crapshoot, but we do them anyway. The South Dakota Prep Media Basketball Poll debuted on Monday and the No. 1 teams were no surprise.
The preseason No. 1 teams in boys were Sioux Falls O’Gorman (Class AA), St. Thomas More (Class A) and De Smet (Class B). The preseason No. 1 teams in girls were Sioux Falls Lincoln (Class AA), Winner and Lennox (Class A) and Corsica-Stickney (Class B).
Why were they all No. 1? Here’s why in case you need a refresher:
O’Gorman returns Akoi Akoi (Augie signee) and Jack Cartwright (USF signee) from last year’s runner-up team.
Black Hills State signee Ryder Kirsch is back to power St. Thomas More, which took fifth at state and will again play a demanding schedule.
De Smet made a surprise run last season and took second in Class B. The Bulldogs return a host of young talent from last year’s team, including super sophomores Kalen Garry and Rett Osthus.
Sioux Falls Lincoln took second at state last season and return two all-staters in Morgan Hansen and Emma Osmundson.
Winner and Lennox bring back plenty of firepower from last year’s state-tournament teams. The Warriors, who bring back all-staters Morgan Hammerbeck and Bella Swedlund, captured the state title. Lennox, which has three players committed to play college basketball, took third last season. The Orioles will be paced by Madysen Vlastuin (SDSU), Rianna Fillipi (NSU) and Isabel Ihnen (DWU).
Corsica-Stickney was a basket away from contending for a state title and it again returns a boatload of young talent. The Jaguars, who finished third last season, are paced by Avery Broughton. The 5-foot-11 freshman was an all-stater as an eighth-grader.
State tournament sites
It’s only December, but it never hurts to mark the state tournament dates and sites on your calendar:
CLASS AA: Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls
CLASS A: Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Rapid City
CLASS B: Barnett Center (NSU), Aberdeen
CLASS B: Donald E. Young Center, Spearfish (March 12-14)
CLASS AA: Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls (March 19-21)
CLASS A: Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Rapid City (March 19-21)