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Hanson Classic notebook: Winner finds identity during new win streak

“We all want that same goal in the end, and it was a relief of pressure, as well," Swedlund said. "We go out there and have fun. We’re not worrying about how many we got in a row. We’re trying to get to the state tournament.”

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Winner's Kalla Bertram shoots over an Ethan defender during a girls Hanson Classic game on Saturday at the Corn Palace. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)
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Winner’s 49-game winning streak being snapped by West Central on Dec. 18 was heartbreaking in the moment. In the long run, it could be an important, mini setback in what’s shaping up to be another successful season for the Warriors.

Winner all-state guard Bella Swedlund took the loss hard, but if anything, it made the team more cohesive. She’s felt the Warriors have had better practices since the loss, while the lessened pressure of no longer carrying a winning streak that spanned multiple seasons shifted their team’s mindset solely to the ultimate goal.

“I think it brought us together more than anything,” Swedlund said. “We all want that same goal in the end, and it was a relief of pressure, as well. We go out there and have fun. We’re not worrying about how many we got in a row. We’re trying to get to the state tournament.”

Swedlund (21.8 ppg/7.4 rpg/ 2.7 spg) makes up half of Winner’s dynamic one-two punch, alongside Black Hills State University commit Kalla Bertram (20.5 ppg/5.4 rpg/5.2 spg). But as Class A No. 3 Winner (10-1) has rattled off seven straight wins since its lone loss, it’s been other players stepping up making the difference.

In a 66-41 win over Ethan at the Hanson Classic, Maggie LaCompte (5.3 ppg) and Kelsey Sachtjen (4.1) each scored nine points. Ellie Brozik (5 ppg) also added six points.

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“Early on, I thought we were trying to find a balance. We were 1-2, Bella and Kalla doing their thing, scoring in bunches,” Winner coach Larry Aaker said. “We didn’t have anybody else who was scoring. Then, the last few games, we’ve had somebody step up and hit some shots and get into double figures. That’s the key. We need some balanced scoring.”

A more balanced attack paired with a smothering full-court press helped Winner knock off a pair of ranked Class B teams (Corsica-Stickney and Ethan) in a three-day stretch. It’ll be needed the rest of the season if Winner wants to make a third consecutive state tournament appearance.

It’s depth will be tested in February, too. The Warriors face Class A No. 1 St. Thomas More, Class B No. 3 White River, Class AA Pierre and Hill City. Pierre and Hill City were late additions after they had multiple games canceled due to COVID-19.

“It’s West river ball. That’s what’s fun about it,” Swedlund said. “They play like we do.”

Winner also plays Pierre and Hill City on back-to-back nights, adding another dimension to the challenging four-game stretch.

“We have a back-to-back in there, too, which is always nice to have because if you get to the state tournament, you’re going to have to play three games in a row,” Aaker said. “It’s nice for our girls late in the season to get used to that, see where their legs are going to be.”

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Sully Buttes coach Mark Senftner was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor

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Bridge dedicates Hanson Classic to friend, Sully Buttes coach

Mark Senftner and the Sully Buttes girls basketball team weren’t in the Hanson Classic on Jan. 16. But Senftner was still on the mind of Hanson coach Jim Bridge.

Senftner, a long-time basketball and football coach, had successful surgery in December to remove a brain tumor at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He’s currently undergoing rehabilitation.

Sully Buttes coach diagnosed with brain tumor: Senftner to miss Dec. 21 game Tumor revealed after accidentally being struck in the head by a soccer ball

Senftner and Bridge, the Hanson girls basketball coach and athletic director, have coached against each other at the Hanson Classic several times. They’ve also developed a friendship off the court. Bridge’s wife, Julie, and Senftner’s wife, Lynn, are also long-time friends.

“I just have nothing but respect for the man,” Bridge said. “You have a different type of a friendship with people who do what you do.”

That prompted Bridge to honor his friend and coaching colleague at the Hanson Classic. Bridge set up a donation box at the Corn Palace and said some of the proceeds from the Classic will be given to the Senftner family. Senftner’s story was on the front of the program and it was retold during the third quarter of every game to the crowd.

“When things like that happen, I think we are all supposed to remember it’s a game and that we are all here to support each other,” Bridge said.

In addition to playing at the Hanson Classic, the Beavers and Chargers regularly played each other at state tournaments. Bridge said Senftner’s teams are fundamentally sound and don’t make a lot of mistakes.

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“They are smart basketball kids that understand what they are supposed to do and that’s just a reflection of him,” Bridge said.

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Winner's Kelsey Sachtjen, center, goes up for a shot between Corsica-Stickney's Raven Barse (30) and Avery Broughton (34) on Thursday in Corsica.

Jaguars done with Class A gauntlet

Corsica-Stickney didn’t fare well against two Class A powers last week, but the Jaguars are likely better because of it.

Class B No. 1 Corsica-Stickney lost to Class A No. 3 Winner (67-52) and Class A No. 1 St. Thomas More (50-27) last week. The Jaguars (8-2) benefited from playing the Class A powers, said coach Lorisa Broughton.

St. Thomas More smothers Corsica-Stickney: Jaguars held to season-low 27 points Corsica-Stickney handed two consecutive loss against a Class A power

“It helps prepare us for the speed and physical part,” Broughton said. “So hopefully we can carry that over into our games and do a better job at that. Because there’s some B schools out there that play like that. White River is a very physical, get-in-your-face team. Castlewood plays like that, too. We need to be prepared for that.”

The Jaguars defeated two other Class A teams Parkston (66-39) and Wagner (56-50) earlier this season. The rest of the schedule consists of Class B teams, including a date with No. 4 Ethan on Jan. 21 in Ethan. The Jaguars will also play in the DWU Classic on Feb. 12 at the Corn Palace.

“Hopefully we can regroup and get going again,” Broughton said.

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