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Full-Court Press: St. Thomas More coach: ‘We just want to play good teams’

“We’ve answered some of the big tests we’ve had, so we’re happy about that,” the Cavalier coach said.

FULL-COURT PRESS

David Hollenbeck’s scheduling philosophy has always been simple at St. Thomas More: “We go anywhere and play anybody.”

The Cavaliers don’t run away from challenges. They welcome them.

It’s an aggressive mindset which has led to blemishes on their regular season résumé in the past. But in the midst of a 16-0 start to the season, Hollenbeck is quick to say he’s happy about the major tests Class A No. 1 St. Thomas More has passed before mentioning the season’s first 20 games aren’t what the Cavaliers play for.

“We’ve answered some of the big tests we’ve had, so we’re happy about that,” the Cavalier coach said. “But we also know the regular season is not what we’re about. We’re trying to get to the postseason and be prepared for that.”

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St. Thomas More's Caden Casey puts up a shot against Sioux Falls Christian at the DWU Culver's Classic on Feb. 15 at the Corn Palace.

As St. Thomas More’s schedule gets tougher as the year goes on, senior standout Ryder Kirsch said it wanted to prove it could hang with the best. Its state-high 45.750 seed points and unblemished record is successful proof.

The Cavaliers have toppled Class A No. 2 Sioux Valley (57-48) and No. 3 Sioux Falls Christian (77-70) at the Corn Palace, Class AA No. 3 Sioux Falls O’Gorman (62-58) at the Sanford Pentagon and are 4-0 against Class AA schools Douglas (twice), Spearfish and Sturgis. They still host No. 1 Yankton and No. 2 Brandon Valley on Feb. 28 and 29.

Hollenbeck admits it’s hard to schedule the bigger schools at times. Not all teams want to travel to Rapid City, risk losing to a smaller school (and two seed points) or have openings on their schedule.

It leads to long road trips to Mitchell or Sioux Falls, or even to the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2012 to play Minnesota's Benilde-St. Margaret.

“We’ve been fortunate the AA’s played us. I respect all of those AA schools, especially back east here that play us,” Hollenbeck said. “They don’t have to play us, but the AA’s (out east) understand that competition gets them better. They view us as competition versus the big AA’s in Rapid City that run from us.”

The Cavaliers downplay the travel, focusing on the benefits of playing against bigger, more athletic and physical teams.

Besides, it’ll step on the court any time, any place and against any team.

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“We’ve (traveled far) since second grade, and I think we’re just used to it by now,” Kirsch said. “We all like hanging together, driving up together, so it’s actually kind of fun.”

“Our kids are used to traveling because we’ll go anywhere,” Hollenbeck said. “… We just want to play good teams.”

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St. Thomas More's Connor Hollenbeck attacks the basket against Sioux Falls Christian at the DWU Culver's Classic on Feb. 15 at the Corn Palace.

The Cavaliers can keep their buses parked to end the year, though. A year after dropping games at Yankton and Brandon Valley, the two AA schools play in Rapid City. The expected crowd size forced a change of venue, from St. Thomas More’s roughly 1,000-seat gymnasium to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

For the Cavaliers, it’s another chance to prove themselves against the defending champion Lynx and Yankton’s University of Wisconsin commit Matthew Mors, who is good friends with Kirsch.

“There’s been a little smack talk,” Kirsch said with a smile.

Hollenbeck is more focused on the experience, though. It’s more than just the physical aspect. It’s being able to pull moments from these tightly-contested games when the postseason comes around.

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“You just hope when you’re in the locker room at the end of the year in a playoff game, you can say, ‘Listen, we’ve played against this a lot, so this is nothing new to us. We should be able to handle it,’ ” Hollenbeck said. “It allows us to mentally to feel like we’re prepared.”

-- Daily Republic sports reporter Jeremy Karll

Castlewood drills school-record 17 3-pointers

The Castlewood Warriors are shooting like the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors broke the school record for most 3-pointers in a game, erupting for 17 against Hitchcock-Tulare in a 91-54 victory. It broke the previous record of 16 that was shared by teams in 1999, 2002 and 2004.

The Warriors finished 17 of 32 from the 3-point line and six different players drilled triples. Castlewood finished with 14 assists on 30 made field goals.

“It was a total-team thing,” Castlewood coach Barry Jacobsen said. “It definitely was like a comfortable level and most of them were good shots. We had a couple guys that were feeling it that chucked up a couple bad ones, but they still went in. We were really sharing the ball.”

Junior Garret Kerkvliet led the 3-point barrage by going 6 of 7 from deep and scored 22 points. Sophomore Tristan Nielsen went 4 of 6, while eighth-grader Lane Tvedt finished 3 of 8. Junior Beau Schooley (two), senior Ryder Johnson (one) and freshman Carson Kirwan (one) also had a hand in the 3-point party.

The Warriors nailed 11 in the first half, sparking a 51-34 halftime advantage. Jacobsen knew the record was in sight as he recently updated the school record books.

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He informed some of the players the record was close and late in the game, Schooley hit the record-breaking 17th 3-pointer in front of Castlewood’s bench. It set off a celebration by the Warriors.

“He’s the one that hit it and it was good for him because he’s been sick and hasn’t been able to contribute,” Jacobsen said. “So it was nice for him to be able to do something like that.”

Jacobsen said the Warriors have been hit with sickness and injuries recently. But the shooting exhibition proved what they’re capable of doing from deep.

“It was fun,” Jacobsen added. “More so just because we definitely haven’t been playing our best. We’ve been injured and sick. So to finally get healthy it was like, this is what we can do type of thing.”

The Warriors did it again on Friday night. Castlewood casted up 40 attempts and drilled 14 in a 71-50 victory over Estelline/Hendricks. Tvedt led the way with four 3-pointers, while Nielsen and Kerkvliet both hit three.

Castlewood is 11-8 entering the Region 3B tournament. Jacobsen said no matter how the season ends, the Warriors will always have the record night to remember.

“We have something we can look back and we definitely achieved something no other team in school history has done,” Jacobsen said.

-- Daily Republic sports reporter Ryan Deal

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Langford Area video goes viral

In the closing seconds of their JV game on Tuesday night, Langford Area put in senior guard No. 50 Gabe Smith, who has Down Syndrome. With an assist from Aberdeen Christian 8th grader Garrett Pearson, Gabe was able to drain this shot as time expired.

The video was picked up by ESPN platforms, and other local and national media outlets. Aberdeen Christian boys basketball coach David Rohrbach caught the moment on video.

1,000-point club

The 1,000-point club added a couple of new members this past week.

Scotland’s Grace Fryda reached the 1,000-point milestone on Tuesday, as Scotland took down Canistota, 69-47. She scored 21 points in the win.

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Morgan Hansen, a University of South Dakota commit, became the fourth player in Sioux Falls Lincoln history to reach 1,000 career points on Saturday. She had 18 points, six rebounds and five assists in a 58-54 loss to Rapid City Stevens.

Libis reaches 2,000 career points

Dell Rapids St. Mary guard Connor Libis sank a free throw midway through the second quarter of Saturday’s loss to Hanson for his 2,000th career point. He finished with 19 points in a 78-52 defeat in the DWU Culver’s Classic. We featured Libis in last week’s Full Court Press .

Dunks!

Brady Fritz capitalized on a fastbreak chance against Platte-Geddes. Winner's 6-foot-2 junior put down a two-handed slam against the Black Panthers.

Hanson's Reggie Slaba added a couple of more dunks to his highlight reel. He threw one down against Dell Rapids St. Mary at the Corn Palace in the DWU Culver's Classic, and a second versus Corsica-Stickney.

Honor roll

Boys performers

  • Ryder Kirsch recorded 29 points, eight rebounds and four assists in St. Thomas More’s 77-70 win over Sioux Falls Christian on Saturday at the DWU Culver’s Classic.

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St. Thomas More's Ryder Kirsch puts up a shot against Sioux Falls Christian at the DWU Culver's Classic on Feb. 15 at the Corn Palace.

  • In a 70-61 win on Thursday, Waverly-South Shore’s Sam Dalton poured in 29 points. He made a trio of 3s.

  • Milbank’s Bennett Schwenn went 13-for-22 from the field en route to 29 points in a 62-55 win over Groton on Friday. He also grabbed four rebounds.

  • Jade Burma had a monster 33-point, 20-rebound double-double in Sunshine Bible Academy’s 61-44 win over North Central on Friday. He also dished out three assists, grabbed nine offensive rebounds and went 16-for-28 from the field.

  • Highmore-Harrold’s Dylan McDonnell finished with a career-high 42 points in a 79-72 win over Iroquois/Doland.

  • Flandreau’s Tash Lunday finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds in a 62-43 win over Baltic on Tuesday.

  • Nick Wittler finished with 27 points and five assists in a win over Sunshine Bible Academy on Tuesday. Wittler also surpassed 1,500 career points later in the week.

  • Teegan Evers and Kobe Busch both had big games in Huron’s 71-55 win over Brookings. Evers had 24 points and nine boards, while Busch added 24 points and eight rebounds.

  • Paul Bruns poured in 29 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out four assists in a losing effort on Friday. Dakota Valley fell to Madison, 84-80. Bruns still went 9-for-19 from the field and drilled four 3s. Bruns also had 26 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in a 85-75 win over Sioux City West.

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Dakota Valley's Paul Bruns attacks the basket against Mount Vernon/Plankinton on Tuesday at the Parkston Classic.

Girls performers

  • Madison’s Kendra Leighton went 8-for-12 from deep, as she finished with a school-record 36 points and five rebounds in the Bulldogs’ 73-45 win over Dell Rapids on Thursday.

  • Menno’s Morgan Edelman stuffed the stat sheet a couple of times this week. She had 23 points, six steals and four assists in a 68-37 win over Colome on Saturday, and then added 20 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and four steals in a 59-58 loss to Viborg-Hurley on Tuesday.

  • Avery Broughton’s strong season continued in Corsica-Stickney’s 52-36 win over Tripp-Delmont/Armour on Tuesday. The freshman recorded 19 points, 10 boards, eight blocks and four assists.

  • Kennedy Leiferman picked up a triple-double (22 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in Kimball/White Lake’s 63-34 win over Wessington Springs on Tuesday. The Daily Republic had a story on her junior campaign earlier this season.

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Kimball/White Lake's Kennedy Leiferman puts up a shot against Sanborn Central/Woonsocket's Teya Moody on Jan. 14 in Kimball. (Ryan Deal / Republic)

  • In Scotland’s 69-47 win over Canistota on Tuesday, Bella Vitek had 19 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks. She also had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks in a 52-45 win over Tripp-Delmont/Armour on Thursday.

  • McCook Central/Montrose’s Abigail Van Ruler finished with 12 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks in a 71-32 win over Chester Area on Thursday.

  • Hilary Albrecht had a massive 26-point, 17-rebound double-double in Howard’s 55-24 win over Dell Rapids St. Mary on Thursday. She shot 12-or-19 from the field.

  • Sully Buttes’ Kendra Kleven scored 29 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and added three steals in a 58-47 win over Potter County on Friday. She shot 11-for-17 from the field and drained a trio of 3s.
  • Castlewood’s Alayna Benike led the team with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists in a 61-34 win over Estelline/Hendricks on Thursday.
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