Full-Court Press: Unruh returns from ACL injury, powers Sioux Falls Christian to 11-1 start
Charger standout scored her 1,000th career point on Friday
Lexi Unruh fell to the floor, felt a pop in her knee and didn’t know what the future held.
The Sioux Falls Christian standout tore her ACL just 30 seconds into the Chargers’ season opener last season. She immediately thought about her college basketball dreams.
“I was scared,” she said. “I have always wanted to play college basketball and in that moment I was like ‘This is scary.’ I didn’t know what that meant for my future, but a lot of different emotions in the moment.”
Unruh, who was an all-stater as a sophomore, was forced to miss her entire junior campaign. She watched as the Chargers finished 11-13 and her AAU basketball season was also wiped away.
That’s when more doubts crept into her mind about the future. But Creighton University, which offered Unruh the fall of her junior season, never wavered and remained committed.
“They said they would never take away my scholarship and they knew I would fight for it,” Unruh said. “They knew I was going to be stronger when I came back.”
The 6-foot guard hasn’t missed a game this season, but admits she was nervous for the season opener on Dec. 11.
“I was nervous,” she said. “I was very scared, but I knew that all the work I had put in, it was going to pay off. So I just had to remember all the things I had learned and put it to practice.”
So far, so good.
The Class A No. 4 Chargers are 11-1 and the future Bluejay is a big reason why. She scored her 1,000th career point on Friday and she has a 41-point game on her résumé this season. The Chargers already equaled last season’s win total with Unruh back in the mix.
“It changes the way we can play,” Sioux Falls Christian coach Andrea Begeman said. “It makes everybody around her better and she’s a good leader on the floor, too. She makes plays and gets everybody else to play hard. You just can’t measure how nice it is to have her back.”
Unruh said she doesn’t think about the knee and doesn’t let it impact her play on the court. She instead attacks the basket, rises high in the air for a jumper and is a steady presence for the Chargers.
“She is a super competitor,” Begeman said. “She doesn’t really have an on and off button. She goes hard all the time. … I think she has matured and she’s gotten stronger.”
The Chargers recently edged conference foe Sioux Falls Christian (50-49) and held off McCook Central/Montrose (48-39) at the Hanson Classic. Against MCM, she finished with 25 points, four rebounds and four assists.
She also carried the Chargers by either setting up her teammates or scoring down the stretch.
“I want to have the ball in my hands all the time,” she said. “But I also trust my teammates and I know as a team we can all do it together.”
--Mitchell Republic sports reporter Ryan Deal
Valandra-Prue reaches 2,000 career points
White River’s Caelyn Valandra-Prue scored her 2,000th career point on Tuesday in a 79-23 win over Lyman. Valandra-Prue netted 32 points in the contest to surpass the milestone, while she added 27 points in a 61-43 win over Gregory on Thursday.
Valandra-Prue now has 2,053 career points and is 24th on the state’s all-time scoring list.
Ortman’s buzzer beater sends Canistota, Hanson into overtime
On Thursday, Tyce Ortman drilled a 3-pointer to send Canistota and Hanson into overtime. The Hawks rode the momentum of the 3-pointer and recorded a 65-55 win over the Beavers.
Ortman finished with 14 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Chase Merrill scored 21 points and dished out six assists. Noah Price scored a team-best 16 points for the Beavers.
Libis hits 300 3-pointers
Connor Libis eclipsed another milestone. He sank four 3-pointers on Tuesday in an 83-25 win over Colman-Egan to eclipse 300 career 3-pointers. The sharpshooting Dell Rapids St. Mary guard became the third player in state history to reach that mark.
Did you know? With his four (4) made 3's last night. @ConnorLib becomes the 3rd member of the 300 made 3 club in SD Hoops history with 302 currently.— StMaryBoysBball (@StMaryHoops) January 20, 2021
The other two members are #1 Louie Krogman (388) -White River & #2 Gus Reede - (322) Ab. Roncalli. Congrats Connor! #LetitFly pic.twitter.com/ErIvg78Pog
Broughton out for the season
Broughton, a sophomore all-stater, sustained the season-ending knee injury in Thursday’s 56-50 win over Ethan. Broughton finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Broughton, who is already a 1,000-point scorer, was averaging 19 points, 9.4 rebounds per game and 4 assists per game this season. The No. 1 Jaguars (10-2) play Andes Central/Dakota Christian on Saturday.
Cheeseman jams one against Canistota
Hanson’s Ethan Cheeseman threw down this dunk against Canistota on Thursday. Cheeseman added 14 points in the loss to the Hawks.
Boys Hanson Classic
Today’s Hanson Classic features a host of explosive scorers and top-five teams playing at the Corn Palace.
Corsica-Stickney faces Clark/Willow Lake at 10 a.m., followed by Hanson against Lyman at 11:30 a.m. Chamberlain faces Class B No. 5 Viborg-Hurley at 1 p.m., while St. Thomas More plays Tea Area at 2:30 p.m.
Class B No. 5 Canistota plays White River at 4 p.m., followed by Aberdeen Christian vs. Class B No. 3 Howard at 5:30 p.m. Class B No. 1 De Smet plays Class B No. 2 Platte-Geddes at 7 p.m., while Class A No. 3 Sioux Valley playing Class A No. 1 Dakota Valley at 8:30 p.m. in the finale.
Boys top performers
Arlington’s Ryker Erstad poured in 29 points in a 74-50 win over Colman-Egan on Friday. He shot 11-for-21 from the field, while also making a pair of 3s.
Brady Fritz scored 27 points in Winner’s 59-53 win over Lower Brule on Monday. Lower Brule’s Keshaume Thigh poured in 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the loss.
Howard’s Tisyn Spader recorded 28 points in a 60-44 win over Hanson on Tuesday. Spader scored 20 of those points in the first quarter.
Drayton Priebe exploded for 30 points in a 64-50 win over Lennox. He shot 9 of 16 from the field for Chamberlain.
In Castelwood’s 74-51 win, Tristan Nielson and Trey Jurgens traded buckets. Nielsen scored 29 points and sank seven 3s for Castlewood, while Jurgens chipped in 27 points and a trio of 3-pointers.
Matthew Nibbe recorded 30 points and eight boards in Elkton-Lake Benton’s 62-52 win over Lake Preston.
Caden Foxley had a monster 19-point, 16-rebound double-double to help Platte-Geddes down Lennox, 49-40, on Friday.
Girls top performers
Sydney Voss poured in 39 points to go with seven boards and two steals in a 63-54 win over Baltic on Friday.
In a 60-32 win over Kadoka Area, Bella Swedlund paced Winner with 33 points and nine rebounds. She drilled six 3-pointers.
White River’s Caelyn Valandra-Prue recorded a 27-point, 13-rebound double-double in a 61-43 win over Gregory on Thursday. She also dished out six assists. Maleighya Estes also added 21 points and 11 boards for the Tigers.
Mount Vernon/Plankinton’s Emilee Fox stuffed the stat sheet with 24 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals in a 59-50 victory over Redfield.
In a loss to Baltic, Emmerson Eppard scored 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for Chester Area.
Ipswich’s Halle Heinz scored more than half of her team’s points in a 41- 38 victory over Groton Area. Heinz scored 28 points, as she sank 3 3-points and went 11-for-14 from the charity stripe.
Wilmot’s Madeline Remund scored 29 points to go with five steals, three rebounds and three steals in a 69-55 loss to Tri-State.