Full Court Press: Viborg-Hurley caps magnificent postseason run and season with Class B state title
Mitchell Republic’s Full Court Press, the weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball in South Dakota
VIBORG, S.D. – Capping a Cinderella season filled with four straight postseason upsets, Viborg-Hurley delivered the program’s first co-op girls basketball championship.
Entering the SoDak 16 game against Castlewood, Viborg-Hurley was listed as the No. 11 seed and beat No. 6-seeded Castlewood by 12 points. As one of the two teams to enter the Class B state tournament after upsetting a higher seed, the Cougars drew No. 1 ranked Aberdeen Roncalli in the first round, the reigning Class A state champions who reclassified to Class B this past summer and had only lost once in the regular season.
No. 8-seeded Viborg-Hurley shocked many in the Watertown Civic Arena on Thursday afternoon with an 11-point win over the Cavaliers, to take on an experienced Corsica-Stickney team in the next round of the state tournament. Corsica-Stickney had been in the semifinal round of the state tournament three of the last four years, but Viborg-Hurley outscored the Jaguars 8-2 in the final two minutes to advance to the championship.
In the championship, the Cougars faced De Smet, a team that had just won the Class B state championship three years ago. Trailing by nine in the fourth quarter, Viborg-Hurley stormed back to win 58-53 and hoist its first state title in team history. Head coach Molly Mason said it was all heart, will, preparation and determination that made this magical run possible.
“It took a ton of heart to pull this off and these girls have so much of it,” Mason said. “They were prepared and zoned in. The girls watch more film than anybody that I know and they were just mentally prepared to compete with these teams. We had to fight for everything, we had some really tired legs but we dug deep and in the home stretch, we played clean and our defense led us every time.”
Defense proved to be the catalyst in Viborg-Hurley’s postseason run, but that only came about because of the film study this team put in all regular season.
The schedule the Cougars faced this season, which included two Class A schools in Dakota Valley and St. Thomas More, along with eight other schools with plus .500 records, had the entire Viborg-Hurley roster watching hours of film each day.
Molly Mason said she doesn’t know any other group that watches that much film and said in practice, the team would joke about knowing what foot a player would move first every time they're in a triple-threat position, which way they’d like to go and if they spun, which shoulder they were comfortable spinning with.
Delana Mach said in study hall, teachers would tell the players to shut off the film because they weren’t focusing enough on their school work. The senior said once the team saw the schedule prior to the season starting that they weren’t shocked by the level of competition, but they realized the road in front of them would be very challenging.
“We told ourselves we would have to take this year one game at a time,” Mach said. “Each game we’re going to try to prepare on how we’re going to exactly win that game and then how we can use that to build our skills for the next game.”
To start the year, Viborg-Hurley won four straight games, each by at least 12 points. After losing that fifth game of the year to Parkston, Molly Mason said that seven-point loss put the team in check. The Cougars went 10-2 over its next 12 games, before falling to St. Thomas More 47-34, its worst loss of the year that changed everything with the team going forward.
Molly Mason said not only did that loss show them they weren’t getting enough opportunities at the rim, but they also learned some strategic ways defensively that benefited them later in the season.
“The St. Thomas More game was a huge game for us in terms of what we knew wouldn’t work if we wanted to make something happen this year,” Mason said. “They had such a strong defense that it made us check our offense and realize we have to figure out ways to score. … We even began replicating their defense of just putting hands in everyone’s face and taking away dribble drive opportunities. We realized we had a roster to do the same and we actually called it the ‘St. Thomas More defense’ when we run man because that means we have to quit sagging off and play more intense.”
Thanks to that St. Thomas More loss on Feb. 11, the Cougars won its last two regular season games without giving up 40 points and won six straight in the postseason to capture the Class B state title.
All season long, the Cougars have been led by Coral Mason, a 15.5 point per game scorer that also averages eight rebounds and three steals, along with Denae Mach, a 14.2 point per game scorer that averages five rebounds and three assists. As the two players to average double-digit points this season for the Cougars, Viborg-Hurley would need other players to step up to win the title and that’s exactly what happened.
Against Aberdeen Roncalli in the quarterfinals, it was Estelle Lee who had 17 points and two steals, notching 11 more points than her season average. In a defensive battle against Corsica-Stickney, Coral Mason and Lee combined for 26 rebounds and the team held the Jaguars to four points in the fourth quarter, it’s lowest in a quarter the entire tournament.
In the championship game against De Smet, Viborg-Hurley held De Smet to seven points in the fourth quarter and Shelby Lyons scored two much needed baskets as the Cougars were climbing their way out of a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Molly Mason said Coral Mason and Denae Mach had fantastic seasons, but it was the parts around them that made them more dangerous en route to three straight state tournament upsets.
“Estelle Lee came out attacking the hoop and that was huge for us the first day because that’s normally not the game she plays but she has so much ability as a player and her performance was right on queue,” Mason said. “Her and Delana Mach just played up to the level competition. Delana’s strong defensive stance inside of just filling up space, boxing out and rebounding was everything we needed. Shelby Lyons was great for us as well. She hit some key shots for us in the championship.”
The well-balanced attack on both ends of the floor, that rotated between seven players, made every play needed to bring the first state title to the program. Delana Mach, older sister of Denae Mach, had her biggest stretch of defensive assignments during this postseason guarding Madelyn Bragg from Aberdeen Roncalli, Avery Broughton from Corsica-Stickney and Kennadi Buchholz from De Smet. She said guarding the three best post players in the state was quite the challenge and she couldn’t have asked for a better ending to her high school career as a Viborg-Hurley Cougar.
“My little sister is a junior and playing with her for this amount of time, going out like this, it’s definitely the best way to become a state champion with her by my side,” Delana Mach said. “All we kept saying near the end of every game was that defense will win this championship and we faced some of the best post players in the entire state to do it. It means so much to do it with this group because they're my best friends and I couldn’t ask for the year to end any other way.”
Groves' banked 3-pointer sends Faith and De Smet to double OT
Faith's Kaycee Groves banked in a 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left in overtime to send the Class B state semifinal game to double overtime.
De Smet outlasted Faith in double OT, winning 52-50 to advance to the Class B state championship. Groves ended the game with 31 points, shooting 13-for-31 from the field, taking nearly half of her team’s shots and accounting for more than 60% of the team’s points.
Girls top performances
- Denae Mach posted a team-high 22 points and six rebounds to help Viborg-Hurley upend top-seeded Aberdeen Roncalli 69-58 on Thursday in the Class B state quarterfinals. Madelyn Bragg recorded 24 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in the loss for the Cavaliers.
- Kennadi Buchholz helped propel De Smet to a 52-44 Class B quarterfinal win with 28 points and 11 rebounds on Thursday night against Aberdeen Christian. She also had 22 points, 21 rebounds and four steals, shooting 50 percent from the field, in De Smet’s double overtime win over Faith in the Class B state semifinal game on Friday.
- St. Thomas More’s Reese Ross put up 20 points and 12 rebounds to help the Cavaliers reach a 37-35 Class A state quarterfinal victory over Lakota Tech on Thursday.
- Dakota Valley’s Rylee Rosenquist notched 16 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in the Panthers 65-52 loss to West Central on Thursday in the Class A state quarterfinal game. She also recorded a 20-point, 12 rebound double-double with four assists, as Dakota Valley fell to Red Cloud in the Class A fifth-place game on Saturday.
- Kami Wadsworth racked up a game-high 21 points with nine rebounds and four assists in Hamlin’s 47-34 win against Sioux Falls Christian in the Class A state quarterfinals match on Thursday.
- Emilee Boyer led Harrisburg with 16 points and 15 rebounds in the Class AA state quarterfinal loss to Brandon Valley on Thursday in Rapid City.
- Faith’s Kaycee Groves posted 31 points, 23 in the second half and overtime, in a 52-50 double overtime loss to De Smet in the Class B state semifinals on Friday.
- Aberdeen Christian’s Mallory Miller scored 24 points, shooting 11-for-21 from the field, in Friday’s 60-56 win over Wall on Friday.
- Maleighya Estes had a game-high 25 points and eight rebounds in White River’s 59-44 loss against Aberdeen Roncalli on Friday. Estes also posted 27 points and five rebounds on Saturday to help White River earn a victory in the Class B seventh-place consolation game against Wall.
- Stevi Fallis drilled four 3-pointers en route to scoring 27 points in Red Cloud’s 64-44 win over Lakota Tech on Friday. Fallis also racked up 24 points, four rebounds and four assists on Saturday to help Red Cloud earn a victory in the Class A fifth-place game against Dakota Valley.
- Sioux Falls Christian’s Kylah vanDonkersgoed had 22 points, six rebounds and four assists in the Chargers 62-58 win against Lakota Tech in the Class A seventh-place consolation game on Saturday.
Boys top performances
- Malek Wieker scored 16 points, along with nine rebounds and four steals, as Aberdeen Christian upset Lyman in the SoDak 16 to advance to the Class B state tournament on Tuesday.
- Hayden Gilbert notched 21 points in Viborg-Hurley’s 77-53 loss to Lower Brule in the SoDak 16 on Tuesday.
- Flandreau’s Tash Lunday finished with 25 points and nine rebounds to lead the Fliers to a 47-38 win over Clark/Willow Lake and advance to the Class A state tournament.
- Freeman Academy/Marion’s Connor Epp posted 32 points in the Bearcats 78-64 victory over Timber Lake, earning a berth to the Class B state tournament on Tuesday evening.
- Joe Sayler paced the Tigers with 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists as White River topped Harding County 68-50 on Tuesday evening.
- Grant Luikens had 27 points and 16 rebounds in Potter County’s 78-47 SoDak 16 win over Ethan on Tuesday in Redfield. Cooper Logan added 25 points for the Battlers in the win as well.
- Waubay/Summit’s Damon Opdahl scored 20 points to help the Mustangs advance to the Class B state tournament in a 49-44 victory over Platte-Geddes on Tuesday.