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Undersized Titans focused on creating tempo

In the first round of the Class A state tournament, the Mount Vernon/Plankinton boys basketball team will have to overcome a familiar issue--their lack of size.

Mount Vernon/Plankinton's Devin Rihanek dribbles the ball during a high school boys basketball game against Corsica-Stickney earlier this year in Corsica. (Eric Mayer / Republic
Mount Vernon/Plankinton's Devin Rihanek dribbles the ball during a high school boys basketball game against Corsica-Stickney earlier this year in Corsica. (Eric Mayer / Republic

In the first round of the Class A state tournament, the Mount Vernon/Plankinton boys basketball team will have to overcome a familiar issue-their lack of size.

The fifth-seeded Titans will take on fourth-seeded Sioux Falls Christian, the defending state champions, at 1:45 p.m. today at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

"The biggest challenge for us is their size," MVP head coach Eric Denning said. "We are going to have to do a good job of managing the game. They are a team that relies on runs and we will have to make sure they don't go on those 10-0, 12-0 runs like they have over the course of the season."

The good news for MVP (19-3) is the team is accustomed to playing as the smaller team. MVP, which doesn't have a player listed taller than 6-foot-2, has countered its lack of height by playing an up-tempo style. The faster style has led the Titans to average 67.8 points per game and force opponents into an average of 17.4 turnovers per game.

"We have an understanding of how we have to play to be successful against taller teams," Denning said. "We use a lot of shot fakes and our kids have gotten good at using their bodies and how to finish offensively."

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The Titans have three players-Cody Muilenburg, Devin Rihanek and Dane Rihanek-averaging double figures in scoring. Muilenburg leads the team with an average of 14.3 points and six rebounds per game, while Devin Rihanek adds 12.7 points and eight rebounds per contest. Dane Rihanek leads MVP with 50 3-pointers made and averages 11.3 points, while Hayden Schmidt and Talen Trisco each average 8.5 points per game.

MVP will enter the state tournament on a 11-game winning streak and Denning said his team has learned how to win close games.

"We have just finished games," Denning said. "We've had a lot of games where it was anybody's game with four minutes left and we just really seem to understand moments. When we need a really good shot, when we need to run some more offense and then down the stretch, we've made good decisions."

The Titans are hoping the third time's the charm as the team is playing in its third straight state tournament, but MVP took eighth place in the past two state tournaments. Denning said the team is eager to win a state tournament game.

"We are battle-tested and we'll be ready to go," Denning said. "We are going to have to shoot the ball well. We are hoping to really make them earn things when we are on defensive end and we want to get good shots."

Two of MVP's three losses this year have come against Class A tournament teams Chamberlain (81-56) and Dakota Valley (70-54). MVP battled back against Pine Ridge (81-77) in the Sweet 16 state qualifier to earn a state tournament berth and Denning said the Class A field is wide open.

"In this state tournament, there are going to be 12 basketball games that can go any way," Denning said. "It's such an even field and such a good field, that it's going to be a matter of who plays their best basketball."

Related Topics: BOYS BASKETBALLMOUNT VERNON
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