Wagner's Emma Yost driving Red Raider basketball success
Yost, who moved to Wagner from Parkston in 2021, is a key contributor for the Class A No. 1 Red Raider girls basketball team.
WAGNER, S.D. — It’s hard to imagine a much more successful transition than Emma Yost’s to Wagner High School.
In her first year as a Red Raider, Yost was a key member of the Wagner volleyball team that finished fourth at the 2021 Class A state volleyball tournament with a 28-8 record. Now, the junior standout has helped lead Wagner to a 10-0 start and the No. 1 ranking in Class A on the basketball court.
While Yost earned Class A second team all-state volleyball honors after racking up a team-leading 346 kills and 474 digs, naming her favorite sport is not difficult.
“It’s basketball, for sure,” said Yost, who scored her 1,000th career point in a 59-24 win over Bon Homme on Jan. 7. “I’m in the gym all the time, I love it and I’m going to try to play college ball. Since I was a kindergartner, volleyball has always been there, but it’s never been No. 1 for me.”
Yost has fit seamlessly into the Red Raider program since trading Parkston blue and orange for Wagner red and white during the summer of 2021, after her father accepted a position as the school superintendent.
Separated by less than 40 miles, the rivalry between Wagner and Parkston is a healthy one. But as Yost has had the unique opportunity to see the clash from both sides, she says the opportunity to compete against former teammates serves more as a reminder of the memories she made as a Trojan than as an experience marred with awkwardness or animosity.
“I think it’s fun (to play Parkston),” Yost said. “We had a lot of fun playing when I was there and I enjoyed playing with them.”
Yost credits the smooth transition to her new teammates creating a welcoming yet competitive atmosphere from her first day of summer workouts and open gyms.
“We work our butts off every day in practice,” Yost said. ”We make each other better and everybody comes ready every day.”
Wagner girls basketball coach Mike Koupal describes Yost as a leader for the Red Raiders, who have only one senior on the roster. He also points to Yost’s passing, particularly from the post where she receives a lot of attention from opposing defenses, as an area that elevated her teammates and boosted Wagner to the top of Class A.
But Yost isn’t the only new face helping the Red Raiders’ rise. Yost went to school and played youth sports with fellow junior Shalayne Nagel in Avon. After coming to Wagner from Avon, Nagel started playing for the basketball program midway through last season, creating a reunion when Yost moved from Parkston.
Now, after a successful volleyball season as outside hitters, Yost and Nagel — two of five Wagner players on the South Dakota Attack AAU team — are terrorizing opposing defenses on the basketball court. Koupal described adding both girls to his program and their subsequent impact on the court as “instant fireworks.”
“It’s kind of funny that I get to see those two play for me now because thinking back to when they were there (in Avon) I thought, ‘Jeez, these two girls are going to be superstars,’” Koupal said.
A Jan. 15 matchup against West Central at the Hanson Classic served as a worthy showcase of those talents Koupal recognized years ago. In a matchup of ranked Class A unbeatens, Yost recorded 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds and Nagel posted 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists to lead the then-fourth-ranked Red Raiders to a dominant 75-47 win over No. 3 West Central.
The victory, coupled with a 28-point win over a one-loss Parkston team on Jan. 13, catapulted Wagner to the Class A No. 1 ranking in the Jan. 17 South Dakota Prep Media basketball poll as the lone remaining unbeaten team in the class. The Red Raiders’ other notable wins include Winner, Sioux Falls Christian and Class B No. 2 Corsica-Stickney — all on the road by at least seven points.
“After this win (over West Central), I think we’re expecting a lot from ourselves,” Yost said. “That was huge and I think it’s go-time from here.”
Asked if Wagner has established itself as the team to beat in Class A, Yost’s answer was drenched with tones of confidence and anticipation: “I think we’re going to get there.”