No. 1 Dakota Valley wins battle of Class A undefeateds with late stand against St. Thomas More

Panthers manage to hold on late to defeat No. 2 Cavaliers

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

MITCHELL — The Dakota Valley Panthers will hold on to their No. 1 ranking in Class A boys basketball for another week after slipping past No. 2 St. Thomas More 48-46 in the Hanson Classic on Saturday evening at the Corn Palace.

The contest came down to the final possession under the Cavaliers’ basket, as Ian Clewley put up a potential game-tying field goal attempt through contact that was blocked, securing a hard-fought win for the Panthers.

The game between two of the three final undefeated teams in Class A entering Saturday was defined by the missed opportunities.

Dakota Valley led by seven points going to the final quarter but could not convert a field goal over the final four minutes, being left to hold on in the final minutes. On St. Thomas More’s end, the Cavaliers racked up 21 personal fouls, which Dakota Valley converted into 16 free points. In all, 40 fouls were called and both teams played nearly the entire fourth quarter in the double bonus.

“Tonight, (the defense) was the difference down the stretch,” Dakota Valley head coach Jason Kleis said. “Clearly, we didn't execute very well, weren't able to do what we wanted to do, and still, we were able to grind it out and that's a credit to our kids.


With a tight defense in the first half, the Panthers locked down most of the shooting opportunities for St. Thomas More, which shot 7 of 16 over the first two quarters, including 3 of 7 from deep. Dakota Valley forced 10 first-half turnovers, including three steals from Randy Rosenquist and two each from Isaac Brown and Jaxon Hennis. Dakota Valley led the Cavaliers 24-18 at the half, heading into the locker room on a 5-0 scoring run.

Returning after the break, St. Thomas More took the court displaying a burst of energy. After taking nearly 3 minutes to score a basket in the first and second quarters, the Cavaliers tallied their first points in just 30 seconds to kick off the second half.

St. Thomas More boys basketball (Ethan Burnett)
St. Thomas More's Ethan Burnett (4) attacks the basket while being fouled by Dakota Valley's Jaxson Wingert during the second half of a Hanson Classic boys basketball contest on Jan. 22, 2022, at the Corn Palace.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

Trailing by seven heading into the final quarter, St. Thomas More launched a defensive campaign, holding Dakota Valley to just nine points while scoring 14 of their own.

“They picked up their defensive intensity,” Kleis said of STM. “The only thing I was disappointed with is that we didn't execute down the stretch. We were in the double bonus almost the entire fourth quarter and I thought we could have ground it out down the stretch."

Trailing by one point with less than 30 seconds remaining, STM had a chance to take the lead but Dakota Valley’s Jaxon Hennis stole the ball in a half-court trap, took it across the court and drew a foul. He hit one of two free throws, leading to the last-second scenario and defensive stand for the Panthers.

For Dakota Valley (11-0), Issac Brown led in scoring with 15, followed closely by Jaxon Hennis and Jaxson Wingert, who added 12 points each. St. Thomas More was led by Cade Kandolin, who scored 13, and Jordan Uhlir, who added 9.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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