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State champions a season ago, Dakota Valley boys basketball rolling again this year

“For us, it’s all about energy, and you saw (Saturday night) that energy was there,” Dakota Valley head coach Jason Kleis said of the Panthers' 82-57 win over Sioux Valley on Saturday.

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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
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MITCHELL — For almost two years, Dakota Valley boys basketball has been virtually untouchable.

The Panthers took third place in the 2020 Class A state basketball tournament, and the semifinal loss that got them to the third-place game was the last time they stumbled.

Since then, the Panthers have won 37 games in a row, including the 2021 state title, and most recently, they cruised to an 82-57 win over No. 2-ranked Sioux Valley at the boys Hanson Classic on Saturday.

The win may not have come as a surprise to Dakota Valley coach Jason Kleis, but he wondered if his team could “turn it on a little bit” prior to the game.

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Dakota Valley's Jaxson Wingert (left) and Sam Faldmo (right) celebrate after a made basket 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

“We’ve had a lot of games where we haven’t had great energy, and some of that’s normal,” Kleis said. “... For us, it’s all about energy, and you saw (Saturday night) that energy was there.”

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Perhaps a stretch of games that features back-to-back contests against two of Class A’s toughest foes in Sioux Valley and Sioux Falls Christian helped spark that energy for the Panthers, but part of it is natural and is generated on the floor from the likes of Randy Rosenquist or Isaac Bruns.

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Dakota Valley's Isaac Bruns celebrates after hitting a 3-point shot 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

The senior duo leads what Kleis called a “great class of kids.” It was evident against Sioux Valley, when the star players showed up, as Bruns poured in a game-high 31 points with nine rebounds, while Rosenquist added 21 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

But maybe the most evident part of watching the Panthers play, is the fun they have on the court. Whether it be raising up three fingers after a made 3-pointer, flexing after a contested layup or imitating goggles after a nice pass, the Panthers aren’t afraid to celebrate, either.

“I thrive off that,” Rosenquist said of the fun his team has on the court. “If I make a good play, I’m going to let people hear it, and I’m not ashamed by that.”

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Dakota Valley's Randy Rosenquist celebrates with the student section after making a basket 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

The fun doesn’t come without hard work behind the scenes, though. At practices, there isn’t much drill work. Instead, it’s more 3-on-3 competition, where the players work on guarding their space, and for Rosenquist, he usually draws the challenge of guarding Bruns.

“When I focus on Isaac, it really helps me with my on-ball defense,” Rosenquist said.

Practicing together also helps the duo gain a chemistry of knowing where they’ll be on the court, and it helps Rosenquist, the all-time assist leader at Dakota Valley, pull off no-look passes — one of his favorite things to do on the court.

The team has been building that chemistry for a while now, though, given the Panthers returned nearly all of their 26-0, state-champion roster from a year ago.

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And this year, the Panthers wear warmup shirts that read, “Live and play with the end in sight,” and even though they didn’t talk much about the winning streak before Saturday’s contest, they’ve been open about their end goal of another state title.

“We've talked about how difficult it is to repeat, not many teams have done it,” Kleis said. “We have a mature group that has been there before, which also helps too. So we're just going one at a time.”

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Dakota Valley players sit on the bench in their warmup shirts during a high school basketball game against Sioux Valley at the boys Hanson Classic on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 at the Corn Palace.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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