South Dakota Full Court Press: Top region races to watch

In this edition of the Full Court Press, we take a look at eight of the most-stacked region races as only two programs from each can reach the statewide postseason.

Action from a basketball game between the Hamlin Chargers and the Howard Tigers on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, during the Hoop City Classic at the Corn Palace.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — The South Dakota high school basketball playoffs are a meritocracy, with 137 teams involved in Class A and Class B each getting a spot in their respective postseason brackets with a chance to get to the state tournament.

While the region format is created to be equal as possible as far as geography and the number of teams involved, the brackets have a habit of seeing top teams bunched together in certain regions. That creates highly competitive matchups well before the state tournament, adding to the drama and the stakes involved for the playoffs.

In this edition of the Full Court Press, we take a look at eight of the most-stacked region races — two from Class A and Class B, both boys and girls — as only two programs from each can reach the statewide postseason.

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Dakota Valley coach Jason Kleis talks to his team during a timeout against Sioux Valley during a high school basketball game at the boys Hanson Classic on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 at the Corn Palace.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic


Region 4A

Whichever two teams make it out of Region 4A and into the SoDak 16 will certainly have earned the privilege.


Overall, Region 4A claims five of the top 15 teams — No. 1 Dakota Valley (13-0), No. 4 Lennox (12-2), No. 12 Tea Area (10-3), No. 14 Beresford (13-3) and No. 15 Elk Point-Jefferson (11-4) — in the complete class standings. Between those five programs, there are 12 total losses to date. Four of them came in intra-region contests, six are against other Class A top 10 opposition (five to either No. 2 Sioux Falls Christian or No. 3 Sioux Valley) and the remaining two were against Class AA O’Gorman and an out-of-state opponent. As one might expect, the region accounts for four of the eight most difficult schedules in the class in terms of opponent win percentage.

Defending Class A champion Dakota Valley, with its win streak now at 40 consecutive games, looks to be specially equipped to make continue its run, but its region-mates won’t make it an easy ride.

Given the depth of this race, region tournament seeding will likely be all-important. For starters, regardless of how the seeds shake out, one very talented team won’t even make the regional semifinals. Then, in said semifinals, both contests will be matchups potentially worthy of a state tournament.

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A look at the Class A and Class B regions containing area teams as teams battle for postseason positioning entering February.

Region 8A

This West River race features three of the top eight teams in the Class A seed points standings.

With a combined three losses between the trio, there’s reason to believe any of the three is capable of making noise in the statewide postseason, but only two of the three will get that chance.

No. 8 Hot Springs (14-0) is the only Class A team without a loss other than Dakota Valley, and the Bison are currently third in the region behind No. 5 Rapid City Christian (13-1) and No. 7 St. Thomas More (14-2), underscoring its competitiveness.

The Bison will get the opportunity to bolster their undefeated start with road trips to both Rapid City Christian and St. Thomas More. Meanwhile, the Comets’ only loss to date was head-to-head against the Cavaliers, whose losses came in neutral site games against No. 3 Sioux Valley and No. 9 Winner.


Being the team to secure the region’s top seed and, in doing so, avoiding a playoff game against the other two powers is paramount. The Comets’ lead on St. Thomas More is just over one-half of a seed point, while less than one-tenth of a point separates the Cavs from Hot Springs.

Region 2B

If state tournament berths were decided based just on the top eight teams in seed points, half of the Class B field would call Region 2B home.

De Smet, the defending Class B champion, is once again among the elite, but this year the No. 3 Bulldogs (13-3) are joined in the conversation by No. 6 Wolsey-Wessington (11-1), No. 7 James Valley Christian (13-2) and No. 8 Castlewood (12-4). The regional semifinals might well be on par with a state quarterfinal.

Of the 10 combined losses between the four programs, three were intra-region battles, four were to Class A opposition and the remaining three were to other Class B top 10 teams. With such results, there’s little doubt as to what region is the most top-heavy in Class B this season.

Securing home playoff games might well be the deciding factor in determining which teams represent Region 2B in the SoDak 16 and which two have their seasons cut short. As such, the race for seeding — less than 1.5 seed points separating first from fourth, and just over one-half point is all that’s between two through four — will be heated over the final weeks of the regular season.

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Howard coach Wade Erickson and the Tigers bench celebrate during the girls Hanson Classic on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023 at the Corn Palace.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

Region 3B

Much like you’ll see on the girls side later on, the three-way race at the top of Region 3B is hotly contested.

With just over two weeks before the postseason, Ethan (12-2), Dell Rapids St. Mary (12-2) and Howard (10-3) have a hold on ninth, 10th and 12th, respectively, in the Class B field overall.


Earning the No. 1 seed in the region is likely at the forefront for all three, as the second and third-place finishers will likely have to go head-to-head to determine one of the region’s SoDak 16 representatives. Though Ethan lost head-to-head against Howard, the Rustlers still hold an edge of just over one-third of a seed point on Dell Rapids St. Mary, which is just over one-half of a point up on Howard. The Cardinals and Tigers meet on Thursday, Feb. 9, in what feels like a must-win for both to keep hopes for the top seed alive.

Don’t sleep on fourth-place Bridgewater-Emery, either. At 9-5, the Huskies are No. 22 overall and the only team other than Howard to knock off Ethan this season.


Region 2A

Hamlin continues to pass every test being thrown their way, now holding wins over St. Thomas More, Vermillion, Florence/Henry and Sisseton — all teams with three losses or fewer. The Chargers are rightfully the No. 1 team in the South Dakota Prep Media poll for Class A and in seed points in the class.

Florence/Henry has that sole loss to the Chargers and has proven it is a high-quality team in Class A that could be among the last eight in the state tournament. The two towns haven’t had a state tournament team since Henry made the Class B tourney in 1987.

The other teams hanging around the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds are worth watching, with Flandreau (11-4) and Sioux Valley (10-5), along with Elkton-Lake Benton (10-5). In particular, Flandreau has made the five Class A SoDak 16s and advanced in the doomed 2020 season but lost in the 2021 and 2022 state-qualifying rounds. The Fliers are going to be motivated to get back and get through the SoDak 16.

St. Thomas More's Reese Ross (20, in white) attempts an underhanded layup on a fastbreak as Flandreau's Morgan Sheppard (20, in purple) and Hannah Krull (14) trail the play during the girls Hanson Classic on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Corn Palace.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

Region 8A

Heading west, Region 8A is shaping up to be an interesting one in the postseason. There is perennial power St. Thomas More in the No. 1 slot, already owning wins over No. 2 Rapid City Christian, No. 3 Belle Fourche and No. 4 Custer by an average of 23 points. But in all, four of the top-17 teams in seed points are in this region.

The Cavaliers have a 13-3 record having only played five true home games to this point. The Comets from Rapid City Christian are looking for their first state tournament trip in six years and have an elite scorer in Olivia Kieffer that would be fun to see for three games in Watertown. Those two teams look like the favorites in this region, with the Broncs and Wildcats each lurking. Belle Fourche allows only 38 points per game and Custer started 8-1 before getting into the bulk of their schedule. Custer has won in varying fashions this year, including three times scoring in the 30s as a team and had an 82-77 win over Class B upstart Wall.


Members Only
A look at the Class A and Class B regions containing area teams as teams battle for postseason positioning entering February.

Region 2B

This is the most loaded region in Class B girls basketball, with three of the top-six teams in seed points and six of the top-24 teams. It includes Wolsey-Wessington, Castlewood, Arlington, Deubrook Area, James Valley Christian and De Smet — two of those teams will be eliminated prior to the region semifinal round. The top-five teams have a combined record of 60-18 and De Smet — the current No. 6 team in the standings — has played the toughest schedule in Class B with a record of 6-10. Castlewood (11-5) has played the second-toughest schedule and Arlington (13-4) ranks No. 5 in strength of schedule. Whatever two teams advance from this region seem like good picks to advance deep into the postseason.

Interestingly, Wolsey-Wessington and Deubrook Area each are looking for their first state girls basketball tournament appearances as consolidated schools, and JVC and Arlington have waited more than a decade to get back to the state tournament. Castlewood and De Smet have each played in two of the last state championship games. Given the geographic nature of the region and the Class B state tournament being right down the road in Huron for most of these schools will be a major perk if two teams can get there.

Region 3B

Three really impressive teams reside in Region 3B, with Ethan (12-2), Howard (14-3) and Dell Rapids St. Mary (13-2). Together, they are three of the top eight teams in Class B seed points, with Ethan in fourth, Howard seventh and Dell Rapids St. Mary in eighth. The Rustlers continue to chug along with seven consecutive victories and have a 7-2 record against teams with winning records, much like Howard. Ethan won the head-to-head meeting with the Tigers, 61-54 on Jan. 27. Any of these three teams will be tough opponents in a SoDak 16 contest.

The Cardinals, who have won six games in a row, are looking for their first trip to the Class B state tournament in 23 years and their second all-time. Dell Rapids St. Mary has a challenging close to the season, with Arlington (Feb. 6), Wall (Feb. 10 at the Corn Palace) and Feb. 14 at Centerville. Colman-Egan is fourth in this region and currently ranks No. 26 in seed points but has good athletes and could be a tricky opponent for whichever team wins the No. 1 seed in a potential region semifinal game. The Hawks have already played two-point games with Howard and Dell Rapids St. Mary, each ending as losses.

Three that impressed

A look at the top team performances of the week.

  • Wagner girls: Just another eight-game win streak going for Wagner, which defeated Class B No. 1 Viborg-Hurley on Saturday at Mount Marty in a makeup of the Sacred Hoops Classic postponement on Jan. 28. The Red Raiders (16-1) look increasingly sharp, have lost one game by one point on a neutral floor and have a scoring margin of 32 points per game.  
  • Dell Rapids boys: All credit to the Quarriers, who picked up their best win of the season on Saturday by knocking off No. 1 Aberdeen Christian on the road, 59-51. Dells is 13-2 and the slate doesn’t get any easier, with Mount Vernon/Plankinton on Tuesday, at Tea Area on Thursday and hosting No. 1 Dakota Valley on Friday, with 12-2 Lennox awaiting on Feb. 17, as well. 
  • Sully Buttes girls: If you’re checking with the seed-point standings in Class B to start the week, the Chargers (12-2) are the new name at No. 1 (sharing the top spot with Wolsey-Wessington, as of Feb. 5). Since Jan. 28, Sully Buttes has wins over Warner, Jones County and Potter County, which all rank in the top-20 in Class B seed-points. After tough losses to Timber Lake and Miller in mid-January, the Chargers are getting back in a groove with five straight wins.    

What we’re watching

Three games we’re watching in the coming week, excluding the DWU Classic at the Corn Palace (which will receive more preview coverage later in the week): 

  • Red Cloud at St. Thomas More girls on Monday: Hats off to the Crusaders (15-0) on being one of the final two undefeated teams in girls basketball in South Dakota, joined by Hamlin. They’ve scored over 85 points three times this season but will get a stern test in the Cavaliers (13-3). 
  • Ethan at James Valley Christian doubleheader in Huron on Monday: We’re going with another doubleheader in this slot with Ethan heading north to visit the Vikings. In the girls matchup, JVC is 12-3 and Ethan is 12-2, with both teams allowing less than 40 points per game. JVC has won six games in a row. In the boys matchup, both teams are in the top-10 in seed points and the Vikings (13-2) have won 11 games in a row, while Ethan was recently ranked and is 11-2. 
  • Wessington Springs at Warner girls on Thursday: Here’s an interesting contest that crosses regions and will prove a little more about both teams. The Spartans have won four of their last five games and Warner is ranked in Class B and has won seven of its last nine games, and the Monarchs have a tough defense with 38 points allowed per game. 
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 and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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