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Deal: 2018-19 hoops season had plenty of bests

With all due respect to the other 11 months, March is the best month of the year. The entire month is filled with hoops, hoops and more hoops. In South Dakota, it's primetime for prep basketball. We pack gyms and come together to watch this aweso...

The Ethan fans and bench erupts after a Jessica Bartscher 3-pointer to end the third quarter against Waverly-South Shore during the State B girls basketball tournament at the Huron Arena. (Ryan Deal / Republic)
The Ethan fans and bench erupts after a Jessica Bartscher 3-pointer to end the third quarter against Waverly-South Shore during the State B girls basketball tournament at the Huron Arena. (Ryan Deal / Republic)

With all due respect to the other 11 months, March is the best month of the year.

The entire month is filled with hoops, hoops and more hoops.

In South Dakota, it's primetime for prep basketball. We pack gyms and come together to watch this awesome sport we all love. It all comes to a head at state basketball tournaments where memories are made and state-championship dreams are fulfilled.

So before we get too far removed from all the fun, here's a look back at some of the best of the best from the 2018-19 prep basketball season.

Best individual performance: Red Cloud's Alejandro Rama. There were plenty of outstanding individual performances this season, but it's hard not to pick Rama's game on Feb. 1. The 6-foot-1 senior guard erupted for 60 points, 11 rebounds and seven 3-pointers in Red Cloud's 82-72 victory over St. Francis. The 60-point performance tied West Central's Josh Mueller for the most points in a Class A boys basketball game. It was just another dazzling performance in Rama's senior campaign, but it would also be his last. Rama fractured his left ankle against St. Thomas More on Feb. 5 and he was forced to miss the rest of the season. A South Dakota School of Mines signee, Rama was averaging 32.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.2 steals at the time of his injury.

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Best championship performance: Clark/Willow Lake's Jacob Prouty. Clark/Willow Lake was on a mission after falling to Sully Buttes in last season's State B championship. With Prouty leading the way, mission accomplished for the Cyclones. The 6-foot-1 senior guard was about as good as it gets on Friday and Saturday at the always-electric Wachs Arena. Prouty tossed in 35 points on 14-for-24 shooting from the field in the 49-41 state title win over De Smet. He was perhaps even better in the semifinals, finishing with 37 points as the Cyclones edged Bridgewater-Emery 56-55 to advance to the championship. He scored 24 of CWL's 28 first-half points. Prouty finished 13-for-24 from the field and drilled seven 3-pointers. Prouty's 37 points set the State B boys basketball record for most points in the semifinals, topping the previous mark of 35 by White River's Louie Krogman in 2007.

Best upset: Mitchell Kernels. How about those Kernel girls? Mitchell dropped a 53-37 decision against Sioux Falls O'Gorman on Feb. 16. But nearly a month later, the No. 8 Kernels pulled the upset over the No. 1 Knights in the opening round of the state tournament, 63-54. The Kernels fell to eventual state champion Brandon Valley in the semifinals and Harrisburg in the third-place game, but nobody saw the first-round upset coming from the Kernels.

Best game: In front of another rocking State B tournament crowd, Clark/Willow Lake edged Bridgewater-Emery 56-55 in the State B semifinals. It was the second straight season the Class B powerhouses met in the semifinals and the Cyclones won both contests. This year's game had a state championship feel, with Prouty and Sawyer Schultz dueling each other down to the last shot. There were nine ties and 11 lead changes, while Clark/Willow Lake held the largest lead at five late in the third quarter.

Best quote: After the semifinal thriller, B-E coach Scott Schultz summed up the game and the atmosphere perfectly: "Two heavyweight teams going at it on semifinal night," he said. "It doesn't get much better than that."

Best atmosphere: Timber Lake vs. Sully Buttes in Onida. It also doesn't get much better than small-town Class B basketball. On Jan. 15, Sully Buttes hosted Timber Lake in a doubleheader. A basketball-rich community, Onida epitomizes Class B basketball and the atmosphere is one of the best in the state. The tiny gym in Onida was packed for the Tuesday doubleheader, with the Chargers winning both games.

Best celebration: When De Smet's Rynn Osthus weaved through four Corsica-Stickney defenders and found teammate Kennadi Buchholz for the game-winning basket in the State B girls semifinals, it gave us one of the most memorable plays of the season. It also gave us one of the most memorable celebrations. As the ball went through the net at the buzzer, Bulldog coach Doug Osthus jumped in the air and waved his towel repeatedly in jubilation. It was nothing new for the always-animated Osthus, but this celebration was in front of a statewide audience. The celebrating continued the next night as the Bulldogs won the state title.

See you all next season.

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