DWU Classic preview: Four storylines to watch as Palace welcomes 18 games across two days
This year's event tips off Friday with a nine-game slate of girls basketball games and continues Saturday with nine more boys basketball games.
MITCHELL — Many of South Dakota's top teams and individual talents are set to take the Corn Palace court for the DWU Classic on Friday and Saturday in a loaded 18-game set over the two days.
It's one of the final opportunities to see clashes between programs from all corners of the state, as they converge in an attempt to prove their mettle with the postseason looming.
Here are storylines to monitor as the girls take center stage on Friday and the boys follow on Saturday.
As one might expect from an event with so many intriguing matchups, both days will be loaded with talent set to take their abilities to the collegiate level once their prep days are finished.
Half of last season’s girls Class A all-state first team will be in attendance with Hamlin’s Kami Wadsworth, St. Thomas More’s Reese Ross and Mount Vernon/Plankinton’s Emilee Fox, with second-teamer Claire Sheppard, of Flandreau, also in the mix. Representing Class B are first-team selections Corsica-Stickney’s Avery Broughton and Viborg-Hurley’s Coral Mason, who is joined by teammate and second-team selection Denae Mach.
There are four future Division I hoopers in the girls competition alone — Ross (Utah), Broughton (South Dakota), Fox and Sheppard (both South Dakota State). Broughton’s Jaguars and Fox’s Titans are set to face off, perhaps giving a glimpse into the future of the South Dakota Showdown rivalry.
There’s no shortage of skill in the boys competition, either, with eight all-state selections from last season involved.
On the Class A front, second-teamers will go head-to-head as Reed Rus and Mount Vernon/Plankinton square off with Caleb Hollenbeck and St. Thomas More.
Six of Class B’s best athletes will also be on display, including another head-to-head matchup.
Brian Laroche Jr. and Lower Brule clash with South Dakota State commit Joe Sayler and White River. They’re joined in the field by the Aberdeen Christian duo of Malek Wieker and Ethan Russell, Waubay/Summit’s Damon Opdahl and Gregory’s Daniel Mitchell.
All these established names and plenty of emerging talent will make for two days jam-packed with high-level hoops.
West River contenders
One thing can be said for certain on Friday and Saturday: Mitchell area basketball fans can get a good look at some of West River’s top teams.
Among them includes Belle Fourche and St. Thomas More in Class A girls, and Jones County, Wall and Lyman in Class B girls. On the boys side, Philip joins St. Thomas More and White River in the event.
Jones County is 13-2 in girls basketball, with three-point losses to Class B seed points No. 1 Sully Buttes and to Wall. It is the first of three challenging games to close the season for the Coyotes, who play Howard on Friday, Wolsey-Wessington on Saturday at the Warner Classic and on Feb. 16 against Lyman. The Raiders, who face McCook Central/Montrose, have the high-scoring duo of Skyler Volmer and Mak Scott, and won 10 games in a row before a Feb. 7 home loss to Gregory. Belle Fourche, which started the season at 8-1 on the girls side, takes on Flandreau on Friday and then heads to play Florence/Henry on Saturday in a challenging two-game road trip.
A chance for one more solid win
In a matchup flying well under the radar, Viborg-Hurley and Philip meet at 10:30 a.m. Saturday with an opportunity to bolster their position with the playoffs on the horizon.
Between the two programs, they have just five losses on the season. Viborg-Hurley (13-2) currently slots in at No. 10 in the Class B standings with Philip (13-3) not far behind at No. 13.
Two matchups with similar stakes on the girls side are Wall against Dell Rapids St. Mary and Howard taking on Jones County, the quartet making up spots No. 7 through No. 10 in the current Class B hierarchy.
No. 10 Wall (12-5) versus No. 9 DRSM (15-3) comes up at 1:30 p.m. Friday, with No. 8 Howard (14-3) and No. 7 Jones County (13-2) at 6 p.m.
Another reason basketball fans in this region have it good is the repeated visits from the top teams in the state.
Lower Brule, a team that has taken on all challengers in recent seasons, will play for the fourth time at the Corn Palace this season. The Sioux are 1-2 in the building, defeating Parkston at the Sacred Hoops Classic but falling to Aberdeen Christian and De Smet earlier in the season at the Hoop City Classic and Hanson Classic, respectively.
Lower Brule only plays three true home games all season but will have logged four games each in Mitchell and Rapid City and three games in Huron by the end of the regular season.
Their opponent on Saturday, White River, will play at the Corn Palace for a third time when they meet the Sioux. In recent years, Lower Brule and White River have met at the Lakota Nation Invitational but that didn’t happen this year, leaving the matchup available for the DWU Classic.
Aberdeen Christian, already with two wins in Mitchell this year, tries to make it three-for-three against Hamlin in Saturday’s nightcap.
DWU Classic matchups
At the Corn Palace
Girls — Friday, Feb. 10
9 a.m.: Bridgewater-Emery vs. Pine Ridge
10:30 a.m.: Little Wound vs. White River
Noon: McCook Central/Montrose vs. Lyman
1:30 p.m.: Wall vs. Dell Rapids St. Mary
3 p.m.: Corsica-Stickney vs. Mount Vernon/Plankinton
4:30 p.m.: Flandreau vs. Belle Fourche
6 p.m.: Howard vs. Jones County
7:30 p.m.: Sioux Falls Christian vs. St. Thomas More
9 p.m.: Viborg-Hurley vs. Hamlin
Boys — Saturday, Feb. 11
9 a.m.: Centerville vs. McCook Central/Montrose
10:30 a.m.: Viborg-Hurley vs. Philip
Noon: Parkston vs. Canistota
1:30 p.m.: Waubay/Summit vs. Howard
3 p.m.: St. Thomas More vs. Mount Vernon/Plankinton
4:30 p.m.: Platte-Geddes vs. Hanson
6 p.m.: Bridgewater-Emery vs. Gregory
7:30 p.m.: Lower Brule vs. White River
9 p.m.: Hamlin vs. Aberdeen Christian