DEAL: Prep basketball is in the air
I’ve got the fever.
Yes, I feel a little head cold, but not that kind of fever. I’ve got the basketball fever.
It usually lasts four months and comes to an end around mid-March when state tournaments cap another fun season.
It’s the best time of the year and it starts Friday as prep basketball takes center stage. It will again be filled with memorable moments and outstanding performances.
To get everybody geared up for the season, here are a couple random nuggets to chew on to start the season:
Matthew Mors has seemingly been at Yankton forever and he’s just a junior (!). The 6-foot-7 power forward has been playing varsity since the seventh grade and is back again to guide the Bucks. The Wisconsin commit will again create a buzz wherever he plays.
Tea Area won two of the last three Class A state boys basketball titles, but it graduated a pair of Division I players in Noah Freidel (South Dakota State) and Justin Hohn (California-Irvine). That will open up the class considerably and a host of teams are ready to seize the opportunity. St. Thomas More, Sioux Falls Christian and Dell Rapids are among the contenders. But also keep an eye on Crow Creek.
In Class B, Corsica-Stickney girls return a boatload of talent from last year’s third-place team. The Jaguars will be highlighted by freshman Avery Broughton, but they’ve got a whale of young talent at their disposal. Castlewood, Ethan, De Smet and White River are also preseason favorites.
De Smet and Viborg-Hurley were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the preseason Class B boys poll. They both return a ton of players from state-tourney teams, but as always in Class B, it will be a fun race to Aberdeen as teams will emerge throughout the season.
Winner went undefeated last season on its way to the Class A girls basketball title. The Warriors are led by all-state players Morgan Hammerbeck and Bella Swedlund in their repeat bid. But don’t count out Lennox and St. Thomas More.
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 1,719 career points and he’s No. 4 on the Class AA all-time scoring list. He needs six points to surpass Mitchell’s Mike Miller (1,724) for No. 3. 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 1,609 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.
Covering the court online
As always, we will have nightly roundups, video clips and photo galleries throughout the season. But this season, we are ramping up our online coverage with a new page on mitchellrepublic.com.
The page will go online every Saturday morning and will be full of statewide notes, video highlights, photos and anything else basketball-related. We are also opening it up to the readers. So if a player hits a buzzer-beater or reaches a milestone and you capture it on video or with a photo, send it our way so we can add it to our page each week.