Hanson Girls Classic preview: Wagner charges into the Corn Palace undefeated
Red Raiders, Jaguars, Huskies all come to Mitchell as red-hot teams ahead of nine-game day of hoops
WAGNER, S.D. — There are five teams who haven’t lost a game this season in Class A and two of the top five teams are set to clash at the Hanson Classic on Saturday. No. 3 West Central will play No. 4 Wagner at 7:30 p.m. at the Corn Palace for a chance to potentially remain in the unbeaten column.
Last season, Wagner was a young team with only one senior, one junior and seven freshmen on its roster. This year with more experience and three key transfers, the Red Raiders are off to a great start at 8-0.
“Last year we were very young and this year we’re still a very young, oriented team with just one senior but we’re playing well together and we’re pretty diverse,” Wagner head coach Mike Koupal said. “We have a lot of length, a lot of quickness and we can play inside and outside.”
Sisters Emma Yost and Lydia Yost transferred this summer to Wagner from Parkston. Shalayne Nagel transferred from Avon and is now experiencing her first full season as a Red Raider. Emma Yost is the leading scorer for Wagner at 15.3 points per game while Nagel leads the team this season in assists and steals.
“The transition has been very good and they fit in well with our girls,” Koupal said. “They played summer ball all together for AAU so they know each other well, there’s good chemistry and they’re just very unselfish.”
As the Red Raiders continue to compile wins, they have faced a rigorous schedule filled with competition in the process. In the first game of the season they defeated Winner on the road, who is now 5-4. They also beat Sioux Falls Christian on the road who is 6-2 this season and marched into Corsica-Stickney on its second game in two nights and beat the Jaguars by 13 points.
Their foe Saturday has done the same, with West Central facing four difficult opponents this week. They won at Dakota Valley on Jan. 11 and then edged Nebraska powerhouse program Crofton 61-59 at home on Thursday, Jan. 13. On Friday, they will face No. 2-ranked St. Thomas More before meeting the Red Raiders on Saturday.
With Wagner ending January having to play four games in six days, Koupal said this stretch of playing a lot of basketball in a short amount of time against good teams only gives them an overall picture of where they are as a team and who they can be by the end of the season.
“It’s always good to play good competition to see where you are at and every game so far, we’re scaling how good we are,” Koupal said. “Right now, it doesn’t matter how you’re playing. You want to be playing well enough to win games, but ultimately it matters late February, early March if you’re playing good basketball.”
Jaguar girls embrace tough schedule
CORSICA, S.D. — The Class B No. 2-ranked Corsica-Stickney girls basketball team has flourished early in 2021-22, while embracing one of its toughest regular-season schedules in recent program history.
The Jaguars are 8-2 so far this season as they gear up for the Hanson Classic, and outside of its one home loss to Class A No. 4 Wagner on Jan. 8, Corsica-Stickney has won three games at home this season by an average of 47 points. The Jaguars have kept that momentum on the road as well, winning four of its first five road games to start the year.
“We set our schedule up knowing it was going to be more difficult, but we have the players that can play at that level and it will only help prepare us for the postseason,” Corsica-Stickney head coach Lorisa Broughton said. “This is probably one of our last good runs because graduation will hit us pretty hard. We’ll still have some good juniors and other players, but we’ll lose a lot of size so this is one of our better chances of making a good run.”
This season, Corsica-Stickney has faced two undefeated teams at the time in Dakota Valley and Wagner, along with Sanborn Central/Woonsocket who currently has a record of 6-3. Their next four games, including the Hanson Classic matchup against Class A No. 1 Flandreau, are all against teams with winning records.
In the midst of facing steeper competition than years past, Corsica-Stickney has had to overcome the surge of COVID-19.
“We’ve had influenza hit our team and COVID hit our team around Christmas so I don’t think I’ve had a practice with all of our starters since before Christmas break,” Lorisa Broughton said. “That’s been frustrating, but we finally got everyone back and it’s just taking us time to get our legs back under us.”
Leading scorer Avery Broughton returned to the lineup after missing a full week of practice, but the junior found her footing in the Jaguars contest against Mitchell Christian as she scored a team-high 17 points and had a triple-double effort in Thursday’s win at Winner.
Broughton averages 17.3 points and 8.4 rebounds in nine games this season. Seniors Rachel Gerlach averages 13.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while Morgan Clites averages 10.2 points and 3.3 steals. Senior Casey Tolsma also averages double figures in points at 10.2.
As a team, Corsica-Stickney is shooting 45 percent from the field and averages 10.9 offensive rebounds per contest. Coach Broughton said the team is having success, which she believes stems from the offseason the team spent together focusing on improving.
“The team has bought into weight lifting and working out the whole year and in the past it was 3-4 girls doing it, but this year it was the full team,” Lorisa Broughton said. “In the summer we had skill camps and we played in a basketball league. … We’re doing what we can to get back to the state tournament, but we have not been able to reach that championship game, so that is our ultimate goal this year.”
Bridgewater-Emery begins to jell as a unit
EMERY, S.D. — It has been a good start to the season for the Bridgewater-Emery girls basketball team.
But the Huskies have been committed to making it better. In response, B-E has been playing some of its best basketball of the season lately, which was crystalized in a 69-42 win at Ethan on Jan. 11.
“We just came together and we’ve decided that we need to be playing as a team,” Huskies coach Jessie Yttreness said. “The win or loss, that doesn’t matter as much but we need to be playing like we know we can. We’ve really had some kids step forward and make some plays and help drive the offense and we’ve been committed to defense recently, which has helped.”
The Huskies have had a rotating group of leading scorers since the start of January, with Taylor Schallenkamp, Casey Meyer, Julia Weber and Morgan Uptagrafft taking the offensive mantle for the Huskies. Uptagrafft had a season-high 19 points off the bench for the Huskies to power the win at Ethan. Chloe Schmitt, the team's center, has been in double-double territory nearly every game, proving to be a difficult player to defend inside.
Like some of the other Hanson Classic participants, the Huskies have seen their schedule difficulty turn up in the middle portion of the season. B-E, which has picked up wins over Sanborn Central/Woonsocket and Freeman in that span, and had a 41-38 loss to Class A power St. Thomas More on Jan. 8 in Emery in which the Huskies were leading the game at halftime before the Huskies.
“That was disappointing but it was also clear to show us what the difference is for our team between competing in those games and then winning those very close games,” Yttreness said. “We did some nice things and we’ve had our struggles with St. Thomas More in recent years but we need to learn from that.”
Entering Friday, the Huskies were No. 8 overall in Class B seed points, behind No. 7 Corsica-Stickney. Bridgewater-Emery had the top spot in the Region 4B standings as well. Saturday’s meeting with Highmore-Harrold will provide another proving ground opportunity.
“We’re glad we’re going to get a good matchup with a team we don’t see very often and we’re excited to get out there and play well.”