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Full Court Press: A user's guide to a new season of South Dakota high school basketball

The Mitchell Republic’s weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball in South Dakota tips off for the first time in 2022-23.

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Gregory's Daniel Mitchell (23) brings the ball up the court during a Region 6B playoff game on March 4, 2021 at the Corn Palace.
Mitchell Republic file photo
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MITCHELL — Basketball season has arrived in South Dakota.

And with it comes the preseason expectations, the buildup to the new season and then inevitably a few surprises for the state tournament and the postseason.

But if you are dropping in on the new season and need a refresher, that’s what we can help provide here at the South Dakota Full Court Press, tuning up for another year in 2022-23.

GIRLS

Class AA

Defending champion: O'Gorman. As is the case in all three classes of girls basketball, the champs started at the top of the polls. While the Knights lost standout Hannah Ronsiek to graduation, they do return first-team all-state guard Mahli Abdouch to lead a push for another state title.

Other top contenders: Clustered behind O'Gorman in the preseason poll were No. 2 Sioux Falls Jefferson, No. 3 Sioux Falls Washington and No. 4 Brandon Valley. Of those, Brandon Valley is only one to return a first-team all-state talent from last season in forward Hilary Behrens, while Jefferson brings back second-team guard Cierra Watkins from the squad that upset top-seeded Washington to tip off last season’s state tournament. Washington graduated its lone all-state selection from last season in first-teamer and player of the year Ndjakalenga Mwenentanda.

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Returning all-state players

First team

Hilary Behrens, Brandon Valley, 6-1, sr., F (16.4 ppg, 3.8 RPG) (two-time first team)

Mahli Abdouch, O’Gorman, 5-7, jr., G (13.1 ppg, 5.4 apg)

Second team

Cierra Watkins, SF Jefferson, 5-6, sr., G (11.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

Sawyer Stoebner, Mitchell, 5-9, jr., G (15.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.4 apg)

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St. Thomas More celebrates a Class A semifinal victory against Wagner on Friday, March 11, 2022 at Frost Arena in Brookings. The Cavaliers won the Class A championship over Hamlin on March 12.
South Dakota Public Broadcasting photo

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Class A

Defending champion: St. Thomas More. With first-team all-state forward Reese Ross back for her senior season, the Cavaliers start off at the top looking back at a deep group of challengers.

Other top contenders: The list of the contenders can start with the teams playing in the night session from last year’s state tournament with Wagner, Hamlin and West Central. The Red Raiders and Chargers bring a lot of players back from their state tournament teams from last year and Hamlin reached the title game with a young core, led by first-team all-state forward Kami Wadsworth. The class is also defined by its Division I talent, with Ross headed to Utah, Emilee Fox, Katie Vasecka and Claire Sheppard all committed to South Dakota State, while Olivia Kieffer has signed with South Dakota.

Returning all-state players

First team

Kami Wadsworth, Hamlin, 5-10, sr., F (21.6 ppg, 6.1 RPG) (second team in 2021)

Emilee Fox, Mount Vernon/Plankinton, 5-8, jr. G (19 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.5 apg, 70 steals) (two-time first team, second team in 2020)

Reese Ross, St. Thomas More, 6-0, sr., F (18.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg)

Katie Vasecka, Tea Area, 6-2, jr. G (19.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 42 blocks) (second team in 2021)

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Second team

Emma Yost, Wagner, 5-11, sr., F (14.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.2 apg) (third team in 2021)

Claire Sheppard, Flandreau, 6-1, jr., G-F (15.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 64 steals) (third team in 2021)

Olivia Kieffer, RC Christian, 5-11, sr., G (20.6 ppg, 8 rpg, 63 steals) (two-time second team)

Caylin Kelly, Florence/Henry, 5-11, jr., F-C (17 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 4.1 apg, 86 steals, 40 blocks)

Third team

Bailey White Hat, Todd County, 5-11, sr., F-C (18.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg)

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Viborg-Hurley's bench reacts in a Class B semifinal game against Corsica-Stickney on Friday, March 11, 2022 at the Civic Arena in Watertown.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Class B

Defending champion: Viborg-Hurley. The Cougars won the state title from the No. 8 slot, providing an all-time surprise for the state tournament in Watertown. Fortunately for V-H, nearly all of the key pieces return once again, putting them near the top of the list of expected contenders in Class B.

Other top contenders: The list of other top teams in Class B is an interesting one. With Avery Broughton recovering from a knee injury, Corsica-Stickney will look for its young players to develop as the season goes on. Castlewood has been a regular threat late in the season, while Centerville, De Smet, Jones County and Wolsey-Wessington all have reasons to stand out as contenders late in the year.

Returning all-state players

First team

Avery Broughton, Corsica-Stickney, 5-11, sr., G-F (19 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4.7 apg, 59 steals) (three-time first team, second team in 2019)

Coral Mason, Viborg-Hurley, 5-10, sr., G-F (15.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.5 apg, 57 steals)

Second team

Mallory Miller, Wolsey-Wessington (from Aberdeen Christian), 6-4, sr., C (19.5 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 68 blocks)

Denae Mach, Viborg-Hurley, 5-9, sr., G-F (13.8 ppg, 5 rpg)

Third team

Maddie Horn, Castlewood, 5-11, sr., G-F (18.6 ppg, 8 rpg)

Jessy VanDerWerff, Gregory, 5-7, sr., G-F (17.6 ppg, 3.6 apg)

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Yankton's Colton Potts attempts a layup against Sioux Falls Jefferson's Mason Riley during the second half of the Class AA boys basketball seventh-place game on Saturday, March 19, 2022 in Sioux Falls.
South Dakota Public Broadcasting photo

BOYS

Class AA

Defending champion: Sioux Falls Roosevelt. The only 2021-22 champion not to start in their respective top five, the Rough Riders graduated 10 from last year's team that won the second of back-to-back titles. While Roosevelt will have a new cast of characters this season, don't expect the Riders to be an easy out.

Other top contenders: In a similar form to how their football team rolled to a state championship in the fall, Sioux Falls Jefferson brings back nearly everyone from the 2021-22 roster that finished sixth in the regular season and took seventh at the state tournament. With the second-team all-state pair of guard Taylen Ashley and forward Kaden Year leading the way, the Cavaliers were picked as the preseason No. 1.

Slotting in at No. 2 in the preseason poll was Harrisburg, which also returns the bulk of their key players from a fourth-place finish last season, including guards Ethan Determan, a second-team all-state selection last season, and Jacoby Mehrman. Seven-footer J.T. Rock and guard Elliot Whitney anchor a dangerous Sioux Falls Lincoln team that checked in at No. 3, ahead of three-time defending runner-up O'Gorman at No. 4 and No. 5 Pierre, which has the lone returning first-team all-state player in the class in guard Lincoln Kienholz.

Returning all-state players

First team

Lincoln Kienholz, Pierre, 6-3, sr., G (19.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 36 steals) (second team in 2021)

Second team

Ethan Determan, Harrisburg, 6-2, sr., G (20 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

Matt Eng, O’Gorman, 6-2, sr., G (16.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.3 apg)

Kaden Year, SF Jefferson, 6-6, sr., F (16 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg)

Taylen Ashley, SF Jefferson, 6-0, sr., G (14 ppg, 4 rpg, 5 apg)

Dakota Valley boys basketball (Randy Rosenquist)
Dakota Valley's Randy Rosenquist (32) shoots a layup beyond the outstretched arm of St. Thomas More's Jordan Uhlir (24) during the first half of a Hanson Classic boys basketball contest on Jan. 22, 2022, at the Corn Palace.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

Class A

Defending champion: Dakota Valley. The Panthers raced to an undefeated (26-0) state championship last season and look poised to make another run this season behind the talented roster highlighted by first-team all-state guards Isaac Bruns and Randy Rosenquist.

Other top contenders: Following back-to-back runner-up finishes, Sioux Valley starts as the clear No. 2 with first-team all-state guard Oliver Vincent back along with 6-foot-10 forward Alec Squires. Winner entered the postseason as the No. 3 seed last season and also returns several key pieces, including do-it-all first-team all-state guard Blake Volmer.

Returning all-state players

First team

Isaac Bruns, Dakota Valley, 6-4, sr., G (24.2 ppg, 9 rpg) (two-time first team)

Oliver Vincent, Sioux Valley, 6-1, sr. G (17.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 6.8 apg) (two-time first team)

Randy Rosenquist, Dakota Valley, 6-0, sr., G (12.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 7.7 apg, 106 steals)

Blake Volmer, Winner, 6-3, sr., G (16.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 4.1 apg)

Second team

Porter Ihnen, Lennox, 6-5, jr., G (19.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.2 apg)

Reed Rus, Mount Vernon/Plankinton, 6-4, sr., G (20.5 ppg, 10 rpg, 4 apg, 65 steals)

Caleb Hollenbeck, St. Thomas More, 6-2, sr., G (14.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

Brayden Pankonen, Dell Rapids, 5-11, sr., G (17 ppg, 4 rpg, 57 steals)

Ethan Bruns, SF Christian, 6-6, sr., F (13 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

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White River's Joe Sayler shoots a 3-pointer from the right wing over Freeman Academy/Marion's Connor Epp during the second half of a boys Class B quarterfinal game on Thursday, Mar. 17, 2022 in Aberdeen.
Mitchell Republic file photo

Class B

Defending champion: De Smet. The two-time defending champion Bulldogs opened the season as the No. 2-ranked squad due to the graduation of five seniors, most notably three-time Class B player of the year Kalen Garry and backcourt mate Rett Osthus. However, De Smet does bring back 6-foot-9 Damon Wilkinson, a second-team all-state honoree a year ago, to lead the quest for a three-peat.

Other top contenders: Taking over the No. 1 spot in the preseason poll was White River, which placed third at the state tournament. Led by two-time first-team all-state guard Joe Sayler and fellow guard Nicolas Marshall, the perennial contending Tigers will once again be in the mix in 2022-23.

Aberdeen Christian, the 2020-21 runner-up and seventh-place finisher last season, started off at No. 3 in the poll, with the Knights bringing back a pair of all-state talents in first-team guard Malek Wieker and second-team forward Ethan Russell. At No. 4 is the most recent class runner-up, as Lower Brule is led into a new campaign by Brian Laroche Jr. and Gavin Thigh, the former of which was third-team all-state a season ago.

Castlewood, the sixth-place finisher a season ago, did receive a first-place vote in the preseason poll and checks in at No. 5, while the leading vote-getter outside the top five was Gregory, which has one of the most unique talents in all of South Dakota boys basketball on the roster in forward Daniel Mitchell, who has been named to two all-state teams already (second team in 2021-22) and is only a junior this season.

Returning all-state players

First team

Joe Sayler, White River, 6-3, sr., G (29.1 ppg, 6 rpg, 60 steals) (two-time first team)

Malek Wieker, Aberdeen Christian, 6-0, sr., G (17.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.5 apg) (second team in 2021)

Second team

Damon Opdahl, Waubay-Summit, 6-0, sr., G (17.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 5 apg, 78 steals)

Damon Wilkinson, De Smet, 6-9, sr., C (14.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 43 blocks)

Daniel Mitchell, Gregory, 6-7, jr., F (19.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 48 blocks) (third team in 2021)

Ethan Russell, Aberdeen Christian, 6-6, sr., F (14.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg)

Third team

Brian Laroche Jr., Lower Brule, 6-1, sr., G-F (15.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 4.4 apg, 58 steals)

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Freeman Academy/Marion's Matt Hagen dribbles the ball against Mitchell Christian during a girls basketball game on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

Honor roll

Boys top performers

Taylen Ashley and Kaden Year, Sioux Falls Jefferson: Playing Sioux Falls west side rival and two-time defending Class AA champion Roosevelt to open the season, Ashley and Year combined for 39 points to lead the top-ranked Cavaliers to victory.

Matt Hagen, Freeman Academy/Marion: Bolstered by 20 points in the first half, Hagen scored 31 points in the Bearcats' first game of the season at Corn Palace over Mitchell Christian on Friday.

Brandon Kjetland and Tage Ortman, Canistota: In a season-opening win over Centerville, Kjetland put forward a 13-point, 14-rebounds double-double effort to stand alongside 29 points from Ortman.

Ryder Michalek, Wessington Springs: As the Spartans took a win off Faulkton Area, Michalek posted 27 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Rugby Ryken, Yankton: The Bucks scored an upset of Class AA preseason No. 2 Harrisburg, 66-61, to open their season, with Ryken pouring in 33 points by himself to spur the effort.

Layne Cotton, Faulkton Area: Though it came in the Trojans' loss to Wessington Springs, Cotton got his year started with 28 points, nine rebounds and five steals.

Girls top performers

Abby Aslesen and Kate Connor, Howard: The duo had their way in the Tigers' win over Arlington, as Aslesen put up 21 points and 11 rebounds alongside Connor's 20 points and 14 rebounds.

Lillie Eide, Centerville: As a Class B top-five ranked squad, the Tornadoes defeated Hanson to open the season behind Eide's game-high 19 points along with eight rebounds, two assists and five steals.

Coral Mason, Viborg-Hurley: The defending Class B champs and No. 1-ranked Cougars got 28 points and 14 rebounds from Mason in a win over Freeman.

Avery Orth, Wessington Springs: A 20-point, 10-rebound double-double with three blocks for Orth propelled the Spartans to a win over Faulkton Area.

Reagan Rus, Mount Vernon/Plankinton: Opening the season with a road win over McCook Central/Montrose, Rus led the way for the Titans with 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and one block.

Courtney Sees and Lila Vanderlei, Avon: In a game decided by a single point, the Pirates welcomed 25 points from Sees and 20 from Vanderlei to see off Marty.

Karly VanDerWerff. Platte-Geddes: The Black Panthers downed a Freeman squad receiving votes in the poll behind VanDerWerff's all-around effort that included 10 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, six blocks and two steals.

Mak Scott and Skyler Volmer, Lyman: The Raiders fell to Potter County, but Scott posted 22 points and 11 rebounds and Volmer added 24 points and eight boards in the contest.

Related Topics: BASKETBALLPREP SPORTS
Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at ldierks@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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