Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SD Prep Boys Basketball Preview - Race for Titles Begin Tonight

It is an old cliché, I know, but in South Dakota prep boys basketball, “the more things change, the more they remain the
same.” Boys basketball will again feature numerous programs battling for state championships, some for their first title ever, in three different classes.

A year ago, we witnessed Pierre Riggs’ “Green Power” in full force as they won the Class AA Championship after some struggles earlier in the year. The Class A crown went to a balanced and talented Madison team when favorite Clark-Willow Lake fell in the opening round to Platte-Geddes, which has moved to Class B in 2013-14. And in Class B, White River won a second straight title and their fourth in six years. Head Coach Eldon Marshall's Tigers have made eight straight final fours at the Class B Tourney.

The die is cast - will any of these three teams repeat? Madison (Class A) looks like the favorite while both Pierre (Class AA) and White River (Class B) were hit hard by graduation.

Now, the light turns on for every team this week, and as we know from past performance, anything can happen and usually does in South Dakota prep boys basketball. So, get ready, games tip off this week. I can’t wait.

Class AABoys
This class appears to be wide open. With defending champion Pierre hit hard by graduation, the door is open for a new champion. The teams at the head of the group include Sioux Falls Lincoln, Huron, Brandon Valley and others.

Head of the Class – Sioux Fall Lincoln appears to be a team with a lot of upside in 2013-14. While just 13-13 a year ago, the Patriots finish fourth at the State AA Tourney, making a 30th state tourney appearance since taking second at the 1968 State A. It was the Patriots eighth tournament appearance in nine years. SFL, which won titles in 1970, 1976, 1995 and 2009, took second four other times and have had eight finals appearancea. Lincoln was ranked third in the KSFY-KWSN SD Broadcasters Preseason Poll but earned five first-place votes, most of any school. The Patriots return a pair of standout senior forwards in Addison Park (11.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 52.4% from the floor) and Calvin Krause. They get back Cameron Burgard, who was out last year with injury. They also have tough 6-1 guard/forward Caleb Rector. Brandon Valley, which was #1 in the KSFY-KWSN SD Broadcasters Poll, has one of the best point guards in the class in Nic Peterson while also bringing back talented shooting guard/forward Jacob Adams, who had 15 double digit scoring games and a high of 27 vs. Lincoln. Adams averaged 12.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg a year ago. Peterson, who had 13 double figure scoring games and averaged 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game a year ago, creates pressure out front, which will cause some teams problems bringing the ball up the floor. BV, directed by head coach Brent Deckert, was 18-7 and 2nd in the Class AA State Tournament a year ago. The Lynx, which made its 12th tourney appearance, won its only State AA title in 1998. BV has gone to the State AA in three of the last four seasons with the first-ever appearance a third-place finish in 1965. Huron, directed by head coach Tim Buddenhagen, were 16-9 in 2012-13 and sixth in the Class AA Tourney (61-54 loss to Brookings). Huron, 77-44 over the last five seasons, will be led by USD recruit Justin Decker, a 6-6 forward who averaged 15.8 ppg and 6.0 rpg while shooting 48 percent from the field. Huron also returns 6-6 senior forward Caleb Carr, 5-11 senior guard Will Carr, 6-0 forward Lucas Morrison and others. Huron (1917, 1927, 1930, 1936, 1937, 1945, 1958, 1973, 1981, 1993, 2004) has won 11 titles and finished second five other times with 48 state tourney appearances, five of the last six.

In the MixRapid City Stevens was 11-15 a year ago and seventh in the Class AA State Tournament. The Raiders defeated city rival Rapid City Central in the 7th place game. By going to the State Tourney a year ago, Stevens, directed by head coach Derris Buus, made their 17th AA tournament appearance and the first since 2007. Stevens won the 1989 title and was second in 1977, and 1995. This team returns talented 6-2 senior guard Steve Schaeffer, who averaged 19.1 ppg, 3.7 rebounds and hits 44.2% from the field. He is one of the state’s best guards and looks for a big senior campaign. Also back will be 5-10 senior guard Jacob Vifquain (6.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg), 6-0 senior guard Matt Wilson (3.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg), and 6-5 junior forward Sam McCloud (3.4 ppg and 4.5 rpg), an up and coming player who has had a great summer.  S.F. Roosevelt, which was 23-2, finished 3rd at 2013 State AA Tourney. Roosevelt, which made its 11th state tournament appearance, won its only title in 2000. The Rough Riders, directed by head coach Lee Taylor, has gone to the State AA three of the last four years and three times has finished third.  Roosevelt was hit hard by graduation but return Chris Phillips (4.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Josh Kirkwold (4.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg) and Colton Kooima (3.9 ppg). Kooima, a deadly shooter from the perimeter, hit 42 percent from three point range. S.F. O’Gorman, 6-16 a year ago, missed out on the 2013 State AA Tournament. While last year was tough for head coach Derek Robey and his troops, O’Gorman entered last year with five AA titles in seven years, including three straight championships. Returning to lead what should be an improved O’Gorman team will be seniors include Connor Nagel (6-2, Jr., G/F), Tanner Schulte j(5-11, Jr., G), Tommy Entwisle (6-4, Jr., F/C), Spencer Hopkins (6-3, Jr., F/C), Max Donohue (5- 11, Jr., F), and Jaden Holzer (5-11, Jr., G).  Out west, Sturgis Brown is another team that could surprise some folks. While just 8-15 a year ago, they have nearly every player back, including 6-7 junior center Kellen Barden, who was a double digit scorer a year ago. They will be led by 5-11 junior guard Kody Kracht along with 6-3 senior guard Tanner Weaver, who was the starting QB on their football team. If Jason Schneider, a 5-10 junior guard, comes back from a football injury this squad, led by head coach Orion Thompson, could open some eyes. Sturgis Brown has won two titles (1951, 1947) with three total championship game appearances in 18 total state tourney appearances with the most recent in 2011.

Genz’s Power Poll – 1. SF Lincoln 2. Brandon Valley 3. Huron 4. Rapid City Stevens 5. SF Roosevelt.

Class A – Boys
As the season kicks off, defending champion Madison looks like the heavy favorite to repeat. They have three titles in six years and want to make it four in seven. However, teams like St. Thomas More, Dakota Valley, Aberdeen Roncalli and others also plan to make their case as a title aspirant. We will see.

Head of the Class – Madison, utilizing extraordinary balance, finished 24-2 with a Class A title a year ago. The Bulldogs, which made their 23rd state tournament appearance, has won five championships, including in 1921, 1945, 2008, 2010 and 2013. Madison, the #1 team in the KSFY-KWSN SD Broadcasters Poll in Class A, have finished runner-up five times for 10 total championship game appearances. The Bulldogs, which averaged 68.4 points per game a year ago, had a 22-point victory margin (68.4-to-46.3 ppg). Madison, directed by head coach Michael Ricke, has compiled a 172-25 record in the past eight seasons with 20-win campaigns five times. They have won 20 games or more in 4-of-the-last-5 seasons. This year’s team will feature several talented performers, led by senior Trae Vandeberg (11.6 ppg and 5.2 rpg), who hit over 50 percent from 3-point range. Jacob Giles (7.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg), and Preston Nordling (5.3 ppg) are other key players back. This Bulldogs team will be good again.

In the MixSt. Thomas More, which was 20-2 a year ago, lost in districts to Spearfish, 41-36. One of the state’s top teams a year ago, STM returns some outstanding talent including 6-1 senior forward Jeron Laurenti, 6-3 senior forward Jacob Henderson, 6-2 junior forward Lincoln Feist, and 5-11 guard Caden Skinner, among others. Dave Hollenbeck’s team won titles in 2012, 2011, 2007 and 2006 while finishing second in 2010 with seven total state tourney appearances. So, they have reached title game in three of the past four seasons. Dakota Valley, 17-6 a year ago, lost 57-55 to state-tourney team Tea Area in the region finals. The Panthers, led by head coach Jason Kleis, has two state tourney appearances (2011-12, 2nd; 1999-00). The Panthers will be led by sharpshooter Brody Van Ginkel (5-10, Sr., G, 11.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.5 spg) as well Isaac Faldmo (6-5, Sr., G/F, 8.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.9 rpg), Jason Lupkes (6-4, Sr., F, 9.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg) forward and Andrew Prochello (6-1, Sr., F, 4.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg). Aberdeen Roncalli, 17-6 a year ago and sixth at the State A Tourney, has qualified for four consecutive State A Tourneys. The Cavaliers, directed by head coach Todd Neuendorf, has 13 state tourney appearances and one title (1975). Leading the team will be 6-1 junior guard, Brayden McNeary (6.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg) along with 6-2 senior forward Zach Andera (8.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg). The Cavaliers will also include 6-1 senior guard Zach Schaefbauer (5.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg), 6-2 senior forward Lucas Lorenz (4.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg) along with 6-3 junior forward Landon Hollein, 6-1 junior guard Zach Lundquist and 5-10 senior guard Greg Zens. Canton, 12-9 a year ago, will chase its first-ever state crown with what should be a very talented squad. Canton, directed by veteran head coach Paul Anderson (171 career wins), has made six state tournament appearances with the first in 1917 and the most recent, 1985, some 28 years ago. The C-Hawks, which will look to add a basketball title to its 11B football crown, will be led by 6-4 senior forward Cody Willett (17.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.7 apg) and 5-10 senior guard Jay Lems (12.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.6 apg). In addition, 5-11 junior guard Anders Peterson (9.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and 6-1 senior forward Tyler Lems (6.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) around out a solid group.  Sisseton, 16-7 a year ago and 51-14 over the past three seasons, dropped a 56-54 decision to state-tourney team Aberdeen Roncalli in regions. Sisseton, directed by head coach Adam Nelson, has won one title (1963) with 14 state tournament appearances. They will look to return to the State A for the first time since 2009. This team could be tough with outstanding size and quickness. They are led by standout 6-6 senior guard Jordan Cornelius and 6-8 senior center Wyatt Youngblum. Also back will be 6-1 guard Brayden Tasa, and 5-8 senior guard Korbyn Bertsch. Pine Ridge, 14-11 a year ago, will be seeking a fourth title this year under the direction of Lyle LeBeau. Pine Ridge has made 20th state tournament appearances with titles in 1936, 1962 and 1987 and runners-up in 1963. A year ago Pine Ridge advanced to its first state appearance since 2004, led by senior forward Jeff LeBeau (17.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 4.2 apg), one of the top players in Class A. Also back will be 6-2 senior forward Jake Brown (12.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg), 5-11 senior forward Jacob Dreamer (10.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg), 6-4 senior center Mike Brings Plenty (5.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) 6-1 senior forward Ki-Jana Gray Grass (2.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) as well as 5-11 senior guard Jeramy Bettelyoun (1.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg).Sioux Valley hasn’t been in the state title conversation lately with its last state tourney appearance in 2010. In the past three years, they are 36-29 after going 79-24 from 2007-10 when they made four straight State A Tourney appearances. Overall, they have nine tourney appearances with three third-place finishes (2001, 1973, 1972) but no state titles. This team could be a surprise with the return of the core of its lineup, including talented 6-3 freshman guard Tayton Vincent, son of head coach Bill Vincent. They also return 5-10 senior guard Kyler Krogh, 6-2 senior forward Tyler Tofte, 5-11 senior guard Layne Lucas, 6-6 senior center Spencer Hanson and 6-4 senior forward Greg Reeter. Another team that could cause some problems is Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, which returns a talented core group. CEB, 10-11 a year ago, feature one of the top players in Class A in 6-3 senior guard Xavier Norris (18.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.4 apg) and also return a solid 6-3 senior forward in Cray Allen (12.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and a 6-3 senior center Wyatt Knight (4.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg). CEB has made 19 tournament appearances, winning the 1959 state title (as Cheyenne) with the most recent state tourney appearance in 2003. Another team that could be in the mix will be Custer, which was 11-9 a year ago. Custer is directed by one of the greatest coaches in prep history in Larry Luitjens, who compiled a 733-298 record in 41 years as a head basketball coach (40 in South Dakota). After one year in North Dakota and four years at DeSmet High School, Luitjens, a native of Britton, S.D., and graduate of Northern State, has coached 36 seasons at Custer,  which last won the title in 2002 and finished second in 2003.  He has coached more than 20 all-state players. In total, the Wildcats have 17 state tourney appearances with the first in 1954. Custer will be led by 6-5 senior guard Chase Glazier, a talented player who was the QB on the football team. The Wildcats also return 6-1 senior forward Logan Burns and 6-1 senior guard Kenneth Meyers.

Genz’s Power Poll – 1. Madison 2. Dakota Valley 3. Sisseton 4. Aberdeen Roncalli 5. Sioux Valley.

Class B – Boys
White River has owned Class B over the past several years. The two-time defending champion should again be in the hunt but graduation took a heavy toll with the loss of standouts like Wyatt Krogman, Nic Waln, Joe Cameron and Gilbert Morrison. With the door a little ajar, look for some other teams to lay claim for a title. Langford Area, Potter County, James Valley Christian, Castlewood, Platte-Geddes and others are teams that should be serious contenders for all the marbles in Class B.

Head of the Class – Langford Area, 20-6 a year ago, finished sixth at the 2012-13 Class B Tournament. It was Langford Area’s fifth overall state tournament appearance and third since 2007. They were third two years ago but have not won a state title. Langford Area sets up to be one of the top contenders in Class B. They are directed by seventh-year head coach Paul Raasch (27th overall), who is 141-28 at Langford and 405-185 overall. Langford Area return one of the best players in Class B in 6-3 junior Bo Fries (18.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 7.3 apg, 2.3 spg), as well as 6-3 senior Drew Planteen (12.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg and 2.9 bpg). They also return 6-1 senior guard Chase Larson (3.1 ppg and 2.7 rpg) and 6-2 senior forward Zach Punt (6.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg).   James Valley Christian, 23-3 a year ago, was fifth in the Class B Tournament a year ago. JVC, directed by head coach Darwin Hofer, has not won a title but made the State B for the fourth time (2013, 1011, 2010, 2004), including three times in the past four years. They will be led by a pair of standout forwards in 6-4 senior center Andrew Ulvestad (11.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and 6-4 senior forward Nathan Wedel (17.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg), who has 978 career points.  Directing the attack will be 5-10 senior guard Alex Waldner (6.9 ppg). Potter County, 23-2 a year ago, finished 7th at the Class B State Tourney. A year ago the Battlers, directed by Bryce Hall, finished the regular season unbeaten at 22-0 before going 1-2 at the state tourney. Potter County averaged 57.1 ppg, 15.6 steals per game and 22.5 rebounds per game in making state in its first year as a co-op with Gettysburg and Hoven. Neither of the schools has captured a state basketball title. Hoven made one appearance at state in 1989 while Gettysburg was second in 1950, sixth in 1970, eighth in 1975, consolation champs in 2002 with other appearances in 2004 and 2005. The Battlers are led by the coach’s son and senior Chayce Hall (14.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.5 apg, 4.2 spg, 16 3’s), who was the Joe Robbie Award winner in the Battlers’ title win in 9A in football. Also back will be senior sharpshooter Kole Hawkinson (12.3 ppg, 43-of-114 for 38.4 percent from 3-point range). The Battlers also return Tanner Heuer (8.1 ppg, 2.8 spg), and Mitch Hinckley (4.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.0 spg).

In the Mix –Platte-Geddes, 17-9 a year ago, was third at Class A Tourney a year ago. Now they have moved to Class B (District 11) and will look to win their first ever B School which would go with a 2008 A title. They have been to five B tourneys, including the first one in 1945 as Platte. They also appeared in 12 State A Tourney, three as Platte-Geddes and nine as Platte. The Panthers will be led by 6-4 junior forward Coby Johnson (13.2 ppg, 6-4 rpg), who helped orchestrate the upset of #1 Clark-Willow Lake at last year’s state tourney. Wolsey-Wessington , 20-2 a year ago, lost in the districts to James Valley Christian, 63-58. They had defeated JVC, 62-57 10 days earlier and knocked JVC out of the tournament in 2011-12. Wolsey-Wessington suffered some graduation losses (Hayden Hooks) but return standout 6-1 junior guard Lorenzo Williams (16.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.4 apg, 4.2 spg), 5-8 senior guard Ryne Johnson (4.6 ppg, 1.4 apg) and 6-4 senior forward Alex Babcock (10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 spg). A year ago, they averaged nearly 68 points per outing and could do that again. Wolsey-Wessington missed on the state tourney a year ago but made it in 2012. As Wolsey, they finished third in 1955, qualified in 1957 and, as Wessington, was the 1972 runner-up in Class B.Sully Buttes, 11-12 a year ago, lost to Potter County, 50-43 in the regional tourney. A young team, Sully Buttes returns 6-2 sophomore forward Scott Senftner, 5-9 sophomore guard Cody Nelson, 5-9 junior guard Brayden Wittler, 5-11 senior forward Josh Lamb, and 6-0 senior guard Lewis Hofer. Keep an eye on this group, which is part of a program that have gone 149-49 since 2005 with four 20-win seasons and seven seasons of at least 18 wins. Sully Buttes won the 2009 Class B crown and made eight straight state tourney appearances before last year. As Sully Buttes, the Chargers have been 13 state tournament appearances with the one title. Including their time as Onida, they have three more State B appearances with titles in 1953 and 1969 and a runners-up finish in 1968. Castlewood, 11-7 a year ago, lost to Arlington, 63-51 in district finals. Before that early out a year ago, the Warriors, directed by head coach John Rasmussen, had reached the last two state B tourneys but missed last season. They won a state title in 1999 and 2001 and were second in 2000 and 2003 with 10 total state tourney appearances. Castlewood will be a team to watch with plenty of size and strength, led by 6-5 senior forward Lucas Ching (14.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.2 bpg) and his twin brother Adam Ching, also a 6-5 senior forward, who averaged 9.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 1.7 apg. Also back is talented 6-4 senior guard-forward Gunnar Johnson, who scored 14.2 ppg (40-116 from 3 pt. range) with 3.8 rpg and 2.3 apg. Also back will be 6-0 junior guard Jacob Tvedt (5.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg). Arlington , 17-7 a year ago, took 8th at the 2012-13 Class B Tourney.  A year ago, Arlington advanced to the state tourney for the first time since 2008 and 11th overall. They won state titles in 1938 (32-17 over Doland), 1968 (69-64 over Parker) and 2006 (64-57 over Faith).  Arlington is coached by Mike Parry, who has 187 career wins with the opportunity to get to 200 this season. His team returns 6-0 senior guard Andrew King, who averaged 15 points, 4.7 rebounds and five assists per game in a state tourney run. Also back will be 5-11 junior forward Tanner Lemme (3.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and 6-7 junior center Kyle Stegeman. Oelrichs, 46-7 over the past three years and 16-2 a year ago, will be another tough team in Class B with the return of standout guard Eriq Swiftwater, who interestingly played football for Hot Springs this fall. Swiftwater, a 6-2 senior, averaged about 17 points and grabs seven rebounds per game for Oelrichs, coached by Rob Cox But the problem for Oelrichs is they are in the same region as White River. And, of course, we can’t forget about White River, 25-1 a year ago with another state title, defeating Viborg-Hurley in the final for the second straight season (63-51). White River averaged 86.69 points per game a year ago, totaling 2,254 points. For the first time in school history, the Tigers won back-to-back titles (52-43 over Viborg-Hurley in 2011-12) to go along with championships in 1955 (56-55 over Hayti), 2008 (66-50 over Langford), and 2010 (66-63 over Hitchcock-Tulare) for five total. The influence of head coach Eldon Marshall has been significant during this incredible run. Marshall has a career mark of 228-58 in 12 seasons, including 208-38 at White River in 10 seasons.  He has led this program to the State B final four eight straight years and into the title game six consecutive times with four titles. The school has also made tournament appearances in 1949, 1956, 1993, 2006 (4th), 2007 (3rd), 2009 (2nd) and 2011 (2nd). White Lake finished the season scoring 86 points or more 14 times, 90 points 10 times with six games over 100. White River won 24-of-26 games by at least 12 points and 20 by 20 or more. This program has won at least 21 games in eight straight seasons, going 50-2 over the last two years. It is an overall mark of 182-24 or a winning percentage of .883. Pretty impressive. Looking ahead, Marshall has to replace a lot of key players who have been lost to graduation, They include Joe Cameron, Wyatt Krogman, Nic Waln and Gilbert Morrison. However White River return 6-1 senior forward Tavis Burbank (10.2 ppg and 7.4 rebounds), 5-11 junior guard Tre Iyotte (4.9 ppg), and 6-7 junior center Justin Folkers. And, it should be noted that the junior varsity members will be given their chance to shine. From what I have heard, they are pretty good. So in White River, the beat goes on.

Genz’s Power Poll – 1. Langford Area 2. James Valley Christian 3. Potter County 4. Platte-Geddes 5. Castlewood.

Monday, December 9, 2013

South Dakota Prep Girls Basketball Preview for 2013-14 - Classes Wide Open

(Editor's note - The SD Boys Basketball Preview will come out tomorrow - Tuesday, Dec. 10).

Surprises always seem to find their way onto the basketball floor.
Every time it appears something is so, it turns out it may not be. In sports, we often find that what appeared to be impossible is sometimes possible and may be just a game, a quarter or a play away. It only takes confidence and trust in one's self and team for the improbable to become probable. 

So, as I break down the prep scene in South Dakota girls basketball, please note that a surprise or two or three will be coming down the hoop pipeline.Every time it appears something is so, it turns out it is not. In sport, we find that overcoming the impossible is sometimes only a game, a quarter or even a play away. So, as I break down the prep scene in South Dakota girls basketball, please note that a surprise or two or three are coming down the hoop pipeline.
A year ago, the South Dakota girls basketball had its share of surprises. All three classes crowned a first-time champion, including SF Lincoln which defeated heavily favored Mitchell (51-36) for the Class AA title. Mitchell was the preseason favorite and defending champion. But. Lincoln, picked third in the preseason poll (KSFY-KWSN SD Broadcasters Poll) battled through injuries to make the state tourney and pull off a shocker of the top-ranked Kernels. Lincoln had appeared in 15 state tourneys and made three previous championship games only to fall short. Not this time.
In Class A, Harrisburg, which was fourth in the preseason poll, lost just once to O'Gorman, in route to the State A title. The Tigers were tested in the state tourney but prevailed against Pine Ridge (64-49) in the championship.
In Class B, two-time defending champion Summit appeared to be the sure thing - that is - until Warner knocked off the Eagles in a classic battle, 48-44, in the Region 1B final. Then, the Monarchs dispatched of three opponents, including DeSmet (31-19) in the finals, to win their first-ever title.
As 2013-14 is upon, more surprises lay ahead in team's road to the championship.

Ready. Set. Go.

Class AA – Girls

Head of the Class: Three teams appear to be at the head of this class, including Sioux Falls
Washington, 22-3 a year ago and third at the AA Tourney. The Warriors, directed by head coach Nate Malchow, have won 20 games in five of the last six seasons. They return a boatload of talent, including senior point guard Ellie Benson (2nd team All-State, 8.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 2.5 spg), 6-1 senior forward Sydney Koel (8.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg), 5-8 junior guard Hannah Nieman (6.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.6 spg), 6-0 senior center/forward Michaela Mayer (7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg), who will play softball at Minnesota, and 5-10 sophomore Anna Goodhope (1.1 ppg), Washington is seeking their sixth title (1906, 1980, 1981, 2008, 2010), but haven’t won a crown since defeating Rapid City Stevens, 60-43, in 2010. Another team seeking a sixth overall championship is Mitchell, which will be led by the state’s top player in SDSU recruit Macy Miller (19.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.0 spg). Miller, whose father Alan is South Dakota’s all-time collegiate scorer with 2,910 points, set the school's all-time single season scoring record (493 points) and will be joined by 5-3 senior guard Torie Michael, 6-0 junior forward Taylor Volesky and 6-0 senior forward Shelly Iberg. However, the loss of SDSU signee and career scoring leader Kerry Young (1,760 points) along with Kristin Sabers will be felt by Mitchell, which will again be directed by head coach Wesley Morgan. Another team in the mix will be Chris Clark’s Sioux Falls Roosevelt team, which was 17-8 a year ago when they took sixth in the AA Tourney. The Rough Riders return guard 5-5 senior guard Nicole Hatcher and 5-7 senior guard Paige Mriden (11.4 ppg, AA All –Tourney Team) along with 6-3 junior center Tagyn Larson, who will not play for a month due to a stress fracture. Roosevelt, which has an 89-34 record over the past five seasons, last won a title in 2006 with seven overall championships (2006, 2005, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997).
Darkhorses: Pierre Riggs, 11-11 a year ago, returns 5-11 junior forward Sydney Palmer (2nd team all-state) and 6-0 senior forward Kaitlyn Severyn, an SDSU recruit. They will try and won their first title, third overall, since 1991. While Sturgis Brown was just 9-16 a year ago, they made the state tourney, finishing 8th. The Scoopers will feature the 1-2 combo of Augustana recruit Lydsey Prosser (5-8, Sr., G/F) and Kahlie Petersen (5-7, Sr. F). A year ago, Prosser averaged 14.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 1.6 rpg (861 career points) and is also an all-state soccer player. Also don’t be surprised if head coach Kent Kolsrud’s O’Gorman squad makes some noise. They were 15-11 a year ago and seventh at the AAA Tourney. The Knights, which won its only title in 1995, is led by 6-2 junior center Jessica Meiras, an SDSU recruit. O’G brings back most of its team from a year ago. Harrisburg, which won the Class A title a year ago during a 25-1 run, could also be in the mix. Nick Mayer has taken over as the new head girls coach and will look to a pair of Class A all-state players to lead the way in 6-0 junior forward Morgan Beaner (3rd team All-State, 12.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and 5-11 senior forward Hailie Halling (2nd team all-state, 13.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 61% from the field).

Genz's Power Rankings - 1. SF Washington 2. SF Roosevelt 3. Mitchell 4. SF O'Gorman 5. Pierre.
Class A - Girls
Head of the Class – This very well could be an 'Old West' shootout with Pine Ridge and St. Thomas More as the leading contenders this year. However, with Harrisburg, gone, a new champion will be crowned and they are many teams prepared to do their own bidding for the championship. Pine Ridge, which will be seeking a third title (1989, 2009), finished 21-2 a year ago, and are 96-21 since 2008. A year ago, they rolled up 1,653 points in 21 games (72.3 ppg) as they finished second (64-49) to Harrisburg at the Class A Tourney. Pine Ridge, which was also second in 2004 and third in 2010, has made 11 state tourney appearances Directed by head coach Laura Big Crow, the Thorpes return 5-10, junior forward/center Lynette Bettelyoun, 5-8 senior guard Santana White Dress, 5-5 sophomore guard Shaylene Richard and 5-7 sophomore guard Cortez Standing Bear.  A year ago, Pine Ridge scored 65 points or more in 18 games and held seven opponents to 33 points or less. They had six games over 85 points and three over 100. They may be just as explosive this season with the core of the team back. St. Thomas More, which was ranked #1 for most of the 2012-13 season, lost to Spearfish twice a year ago, the only setbacks in a 20-2 season. STM, directed by head coach Brandon Kandolin, should again be one of the state’s top teams with the return of sharp-shooting 5-11 junior guard Alexys Swedlund (18.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.5 spg, 40 3's). Also back will be 5-9 guard Madison Kirsch, 5-11 senior forward Moira Duffy and several others. STM, who won the 2012 state title (first in school history) and also made state in 2011, lost just one senior off last year’s squad.
Darkhorses: Sioux Falls Christian, 17-9 a year ago and seventh at the State A Tourney, gave champion Harrisburg a scare in the first round of the tournament. SFC Christian, 31-17 over the past two years, has made two State A appearances, including the one a year ago along with 1986. While they lost All-State forward Hayley McCarron, the Chargers, directed by head coach Andrea Begeman, return several athletic performers who led the volleyball team to the state meet. Those players include 5-11 senior Kristin Stern, 6-2 Megan Vegeldysk, and 5-6 senior guard Kara Koth. Chamberlain, which was 21-4 a year ago and eighth at the State A Tourney, will be led by 5-9 senior guard Kennedy Wagner (3rd team all-state, 15.1 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.9 rpg, 2.1 spg) and 5-6 senior guard Abbey Handel. Chamberlain, directed by head coach Jeff Neuharth, is 33-14 over the last two seasons and has reached the state tourney three times. Another team to pay attention to will be Tri-Valley, which was 18-4 a year ago. While losing standout first-team all-state forward Allison Cross, Tri-Valley, led by head coach Jeff Breitkreutz, returns 6-0 junior forward Sammy Kawowski, among several others. TV, 71-26 over the past four seasons, won the State A Tourney in 2003. They also finished second twice and third three times with a total of 10 state tournament appearances.  West Central, 18-7 and fourth a year ago at A Tourney, is led by 5-9 guard/forward Madison Kuehl (18 ppg, 8 rpg, 7 apg), 5-5 junior guard Brooklyn Ketcham and 5-9 forward Makenna MacDonald. WC, led by head coach Joe Caffrey, is 47-18 over the past three seasons and will look to add a third title to ones from 1999 and most recently, 2008.  They return four of five starters, which makes them a seasoned team ready to go. Winner is another team to watch as they return the core of their lineup. The Warriors, 16-7 a year ago, lost to Pine Ridge, 67-59, in the 2012-13 regional but return the core of their squad. Head Coach Rona Volmer will look to 5-9 senior forward Katie Mathis (7.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.1 apg), 5-11 senior forward Cassidy Hanson (5-11, 11.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and 5-8 junior guard Kelsey Bertram (10.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 14 3's) to lead a veteran team. Winner has made six state tourney appearances, mostly recently in 2011, but has not won a title. Another team that will make some noise is Elk Point-Jefferson. The Huskies will be led by the presence of two-time Class A All-State forward Keely Bertram, a 5-9 standout, who will play collegiately at Black Hill State. He averaged 17.4 points (383 points in 2012-13) and 7.8 rebounds per game a year ago as EPJ was 14-8 but lost to Beresford. In her career, she has accumulated 1,052 points (16.4 ppg), 342 rebounds (5.3 rpg), 174 steals (2.7 spg) and 88 assists. Also back will be returning starters in 5-3 senior guard Hope Erickson, 5-11 senior forward Amy Zeller (5.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg) as well as returning letter winner, senior center Skylore Curry (6.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg). A big addition is 5-6 sophomore transfer guard McKenzie Mennenga, who averaged 13.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, and 3.0 apg at Dakota Valley as a freshman a year ago.

Genz's Power Rankings -- 1. St. Thomas More 2. Pine Ridge 3. West Central 4. Elk Point-Jefferson 5. Winner.
Class B -- Girls
Head of the Class – Warner heads into the season as the favorite in Class B as the Monarchs return a pair of all-state performers in Miranda Ristau and Ashley Rozell. But don’t blink because this class is going to be competitive again. Sanborn Central-Woonsocket, DeSmet and Sully Buttes are at least three teams who should contend for all the marbles. Also watch out for Mitchell Christian and Hanson and others. A year ago, Warner finished 25-1, ending the reign of Summit, which had won two straight titles and three of the past four championships (2009, 2011, 2012). After falling to Summit, 52-41 in January, Warner got a little revenge with a 48-44 win in the Region 1B final. Warner, which is 64-7 over the last three seasons with back-to-back 20-win seasons (20-3, 25-1), had lost to Summit, 51-44, in the region final two years ago and seven of eight meetings over the past few years. But those losses go into the rear-view mirror as head coach Stewart Bohle's crew focuses on a 2nd straight title. At the 2012-13 State B, Warner outscored three teams by a 162-100 margin to win their first-ever title. The wins include a 47-38 win over Sully Buttes in the semifinals and a31-19 win over DeSmet in the finals. A year ago, Warner outscored opponents by nearly a two-to-one margin (1,226-to-655) and had 21 double digit wins. The Monarchs have made three state tourney appearances, including 1996 and 1995, when they finished third. Ristau (14.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 bpg), a 6-2 senior center,  was 2nd team Class B All-State selection and is a Northern State recruit, while Rozell (13.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.0 apg), is a 5-10 junior guard/forward and 3rd team Class B All-State honoree. They have three players over 6-0 on the front wall and if there guard play is good again be aware Class B. Another team that will contend and be a handful for opponents is Sanborn Central/Woonsocket, 24-2 a year ago and 46-4 over the past two seasons with head coach Tim McClain. SC-Woonsocket has finished 5th and fourth in consecutive Class B Tourneys. Led by 6-1 forward Shelby Selland, an Augustana recruit, who was all-state and named to the All-Tournament Team, SC-Woonsocket figures to be one of the best teams this year. In 2012-13, they averaged 64.5 ppg, 29.4 rpg, 13.8 spg and hit 77 three-point shots.  Selland averaged 17 ppg, 6.7 rpg, and 1.9 steals and now has 1,120 points with 614 rebounds in career. She is joined by 6-1 sophomore Myah Selland (9.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.5 apg), 6-0 junior Marissa Weber (9.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.3 apg), 5-10 senior forward Morgan Selland (5.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg) and 5-10 senior forward Rachel Selland (6.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) who was also named to the all-state tourney squad. Sully Buttes, which was 21-5 and fourth at the 2013 State B, scored over 1,500 points a year ago with a victory margin of nearly 31 points, With nearly the entire starting lineup back in the fold, the Chargers, directed by head coach Mark Senftner, should contend as they look for an eighth trip to the State B since 2004. Leading the way for Sully Buttes will be 5-10 senior forward Karlea Stahl (11.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.5 spg), 5-7 senior guard Remi Wientjes (12 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.5 spg) and freshman Chloe Lamb (11.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.5 apg, 3.0 spg), who excelled as an 8th grader a year ago. It would be wise to also keep an eye on DeSmet, which was second a year ago as the Bulldogs rolled to a 24-2 season. DeSmet, which held 10 opponents less than 30 points, scored over 1,300 points with 18 wins by double digits. The Bulldogs made their second appearance in the state tournament, finishing third in 1994. DeSmet will return 5-7 senior forward Grayson Gruenhagen (10 ppg, 7.0 rpg), who will play at Dakota Wesleyan; 5-9 junior guard Rylie Osthus (6.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 spg) and 5-5 senior guard Taylor Schoenfelder (6.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 spg) as well as 6-1 senior center Kelsey Poppen (5.0 ppg) and 5-7 junior guard Kelli Aughenbaugh (5.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg).
DarkhorsesHanson, which was 23-3 a year ago and third at the State B, will again with a team to keep an eye on. Coach Jim Bridge, who has 437 career wins, will be led by the return senior Leah Marsh (5.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg) along with sophomore phenom Kynedi Cheeseman (12.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, and 3.4 spg). Mitchell Christian, which was 13-8 a year ago, will be another team to keep a close eye on. They return standout 5-6 senior guard Alexa Van Laecken, who has averaged nearly 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals per game over the past two seasons. Another key player will be third-team all-state forward Cassidy Graham (14 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.5 apg), who has transferred to Mitchell Christian from Hanson. In addition, Mitchell Christian, which won a state title in 2006 and made a state tourney appearance in 2011, also return 5-8 forward sophomore Emily Reynen and 5-10 freshman forward Abbie Reynen.

Genz's Power Rankings -- 1. Sully Buttes 2. Warner 3. SC-Woonsocket 4. DeSmet 5. Mitchell Christian

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Retiring South Dakota BB Coach Dave Boots Always Focused on Moving Forward

Editor's Note - Here is a story I wrote a little over a year ago for RedEye Sports on retiring USD head men's basketball coach Dave Boots. He announced he was leaving the USD program today. Good luck coach Boots, the Coyote Nation thanks you for 25 years of commitment and dedication. You're a Hall of Famer. In this blog post, I have updated some of the numbers relating to his wins and losses and time at USD.
The charismatic baseball pitcher Satchel Paige once said “don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”
It is a perspective, perhaps, of which University of South Dakota head men’s basketball coach Dave Boots can relate. During his 25-year coaching tenure, Boots has never looked back. Since the day he was named the USD’s 15th head basketball coach 25 years ago, Boots has moved forward.

He hasn’t been concerned about leaving a legacy, despite putting together an incredible streak of 23 consecutive winning seasons which ended two years ago. In developing the Coyote program, he has always kept his focus straight ahead.

“We don’t look back. The most important day is today or tomorrow,” he said. “We are trying to build something that people will enjoy - something (program) that the USD community will be proud of.”  
Boots has directed a Coyote program, once mired in losing, to its most successful period in school history. He has compiled the most wins in school history, 503-235, or a winning percentage of .681. 

During his tenure, Boots has led USD to 16 20-win seasons and produced 14 of the 15 best seasons (terms of wins and losses) in school history.  Prior to Boots’ arrival just one team, the 1958 national championship team under Dwane Clodfelter, had won 20 games (22-5).
Boots’ Coyotes have had two Elite Eight appearances (1992-93, 1993-94), seven conference titles,  and 10 NCAA DII playoff appearances (five straight from 2003-08), the school’s first NCAA postseason game (CollegeInsiders.com Tournament) and wins over Division I teams Wyoming and Loyola Maramount, as well as close calls vs. NCAA tournament teams, Cornell and Morehead State. Named a conference coach of the year seven times, Boots has had 22 players earn Academic All Conference honors, 39 named all-league, and three selected All-American, including one (Turner Troholz) DII National Player of the Year.

He faced a big challenge when he took over the job in 1988. It was a program that had gone 40-100 in the previous five seasons. Day-by-day, he focused on what was needed for the program to grow. In his first season, the Coyotes produced winning basketball and haven’t stopped since. Now, he is navigating USD’s foray into Division 1.

“It is going to take us a little longer to get to some of the things we need to do at this level,” noted Boots. “It isn’t something you can just turn around and do. It takes you time to get your program up where it can be a competitive DI program.”

Attaining success, says Boots, requires buy-in by everyone involved in the program, from the coaching staff to the players. They have to be passionate and dedicated.

“I have had incredibly good assistant coaches, like Joey James and Chris Kassin now, and all the way through,” he said. “I have been very fortunate that some of them played for me. That is one of the most enjoyable things I have had here, to watch guys play here, become coaches for us and then move on,” said Boots, noting that in 23 years, he has had 25 assistants or players move on to make their own way in coaching.

“It is really pleasing that they are part of us and remain part of us. The coaches in the NBA D League All Star Game this year were Nate Tibbetts and Nick Nurse, a former player and former assistant. They are both great guys who have great futures. To see Shane Murphy, John Hemenway and others do what they are doing is special. To see (former player) Ben Ries do what he is doing at Norfolk is tremendously pleasing. You see them grow, have families and become good fathers.”
He is appreciative of dedicated student-athletes who have come in and made a commitment on and off the court. “Even as we move up, we still believe we need to get some of those same type of kids we have been getting  – their character, their desire to get a degree, go to class, be good citizen, all that. That always has to be the main focus.”

Boots’ perspective on thinking for today and tomorrow and not yesterday continues to provide the program with positive direction. Yet, every day brings a fresh challenge. 
“We have certainly had our bumps in the road during this transition and it is going to get tougher than it has been as we move into the Summit League.  There is a lot left to be done. We do not kid ourselves. Believe me. We know what has to be done, how much work it is going to take, how much luck we are going to have to have in it, patience. There are no quick fixes,” he said.

While he hones in on what lies ahead, Coach Boots also knows that 23 years at USD has included many special moments and many more await time and circumstance.
One of the early moments recalled by Boots was South Dakota’s win over North Dakota in the NCC Postseason Tournament at Sioux Falls in the 1989-90 season. The Coyotes, who finished 22-10 and earned its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971-72, upended a North Dakota team ranked #1 in the country in the tournament semifinals, 75-73.  

“That was just our second year here,” recalled Boots. “We had Mike Graves, Tim Hatchett and Sam Goodhope.”
USD trailed 41-35 at halftime but rallied to tie the game at 64-64 with 6:08 to play. With seven seconds left, USD’s Brad Fifield hit a game-tying jump shot to force overtime. Then, Hatchett, who along with Goodhope, both scored 20 points, hit a jumper to provide USD with its first lead of the game. Later in OT, Fifield hit a short jumper with a minute to play to break the tie as USD advanced.     

The next night USD defeated Mankato State, 69-59, to win the tourney title and earn an NCAA berth.  “We were trying to establish our program – early in that stage -- and that (UND game) was a really big win for us,” said Boots.
Another significant victory was USD’s 66-64 regional final conquest of UND in 1992-93. Despite winning the league, USD was forced to go on the road.

“The game went back and forth and once again we had a really good team with Chris Jones, (Randy) Rosenquist and (Troy) Terronez, (Shane) Murphy, Mark Andres, John Brenegan, and Mike Kloth. Somehow we got that game into overtime and won it with a basket by Rosenquist with five or six seconds to go,” said Boots, whose team finished 25-5 and 16-2 in the NCC.
In the game, USD led, 41-35, before UND had a 22-11 run that produced a 57-52 lead. With 1:26 to go, Murphy hit a three-point shot to tie the game. Then Rosenquist hit arguably the biggest shot of his career to send South Dakota to the Elite Eight for the first time.

Another game that sticks with Boots is the 100-96 triple-overtime loss to New Hampshire in the first round of the Elite Eight that same season. “It was a game we thought we had in hand or were in position to win,” said Boots, noting that USD led by four with a minute to go and had possession of the ball. “We didn’t make some plays that we need to make, like not getting a stop when we needed to,” said Boots. “That one is always going to be with us.”

Another important game was the 61-58 verdict over North Dakota State in the 1993-94 regional final at the DakotaDome. It was the first time USD had hosted a regional final at the Dome. NDSU had beaten USD, 82-63, late in the season, which forced USD to defeat North Dakota (80-71) the next night to win the conference title outright for the second straight season. The Coyotes, which finished 24-5, were dominating the league until losing star forward Chris Jones to injury with 10 games left in the season. Jones was hurt during pre-game warm-ups prior to an 88-81 win over SDSU in Brookings. Following that game, USD scored 100 points in four consecutive wins. However, the loss of Jones was a big blow.  

“He was a big loss for us because he was certainly a talented player, our leading scorer, someone in the lineup who made everyone better. So, we were a little shorthanded to finish that year,” said Boots. “Those kids really rose to the occasion and won the league and the regional,” he said.
While USD did not win a national title during that unforgettable two-season run, the team had an overall record of 49-11, including a dominating 31-5 mark in NCC play.

Boots also remembers USD’s heart-breaking 77-76 double overtime loss to UND in the Great West Conference Tournament finals last March. USD, which finished 18-15 on the season, had an up and down season but had upset the top-seeded Utah Valley State to get into position for its second straight league title. Then they fell behind UND late and rallied. “We made some good tough plays to get it into overtime and then we couldn’t convert simple plays which ended up costing us dearly,” said Boots.  
“I can’t remember them all,” said Boots of all the memorable games and moments his teams experienced while he has directed the basketball ship. “We had a lot of great games with SDSU and others,” he said.
Obviously, Boots, who has coached 680 games at the U, can’t recall details of every big game, although some plays forever stay imprinted in the memory bank.

One such moment was orchestrated by USD guards Luke Tibbetts and Josh Mueller in a dramatic 79-78 win over North Dakota at the DakotaDome in the 2002-03 season. In a tight contest, UND hit a shot with just four-tenths of a second to play.
“Down two, Luke Tibbetts ran across the baseline threw back across his body all the way to the opposite corner to Mueller. We set up a back screen for him and he caught it, and as he is turning, threw it up and it went in,” said Boots. “There were a lot of people who had already left the game and I am not sure everyone in attendance that night saw the play.”

According to Boots, those games and moments are really what comprise tradition.
“Games are part of their (USD players) lives,” he said. “Even though this (playing at USD) is a short part of their life, it is something that shapes them. I look at tradition that way a lot more than accomplishments (wins and losses),” he said.

 “Some of those games stay with those kids a long time. I know they stay with coaches a long time. It shapes them a little bit, it helps them deal with some of the tough times they might have down the road. Not everything goes your way, so you have to be able to deal with the tough times as well and survive them, learn from them,” said Boots,
And, perhaps, they find through their venerable coach, that moving ahead, not looking back, is the right step.

Friday, May 10, 2013

You Make the Call

I heard a new one this morning. MLB writer  Peter Gammons reported that umpire Angel Hernandez may have refused to overturn a decision in the Cleveland-Oakland baseball game (remember the HR by Adam Rosales that wasn't) because he doesn't believe instant replay has a place in baseball.

It seems to me that instead of protesting about the way things should be, Hernandez should pay attention to what is.

Whether it is Angel Hernandez in baseball, Joey Crawford in basketball, Ed Hochuli in the NFL or any of the hundreds involved in professional sports, officials have a difficult assignment. Often it is said that if officials are not part of the conversation in a game's broadcast then they are doing their jobs. A little harsh but true.

I have talked often with former official and supervisor of officials Colin Kapitan and visited with official Brad Coleman at the Summit League Basketball Championships. The commitment that men and women make to do this important segment in sports should never be questioned. They try to do the best they can. Sometimes doing their best means they will make a wrong decision.

It is easy for fans to call for their heads when decisions are wrong. But I think we know that some calls are going to be wrong. 90 percent of the calls are right so give credit where it is due. In full disclosure, I have yelled at my share of officials (sometimes loudly). Yet, for all of my anguish over some calls, I will be the first to agree that the human element has a place in the game.

But, Angel, come on, you were wrong and if you made the decision to "not overturn" a call because of your misgivings surrounding instant relay, then sir, you need a suspension to think about it.

Don't get me wrong, I believe officials need to have a seat at the table about rule interpretations, including handling instant replay. They have the right to hold their opinions and to speak out, just like us media types and fans. But, if they to do it under the cloak of a bad judgment, they are wrong and acting irresponsibly.

It seems to me the officiating at the professional level is getting worse by the season. I believe that NBA officiating may make more bad calls than baseball or the NFL, if that is possible. Take for example nine technical handed out in the Chicago/Miami blowout the other night. Two players (Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, both of the Bulls) were sent to the showers early. Traveling is overlooked and phantom fouls are a real part of every game. A team with momentum gets one or two of these mystery calls during a course of a run. Major League Baseball is right there with the NBA. Twins fans remember the horrible call in the playoffs that robbed Joe Mauer of a hit. Tigers fans still have problems with Jim Joyce's wrong decision on Armando Gallaraga's perfect game when he missed an obvious call at first base. Those were a couple of years ago. How about, the misinterpretation of the rules in the Astros/Angels game, one night after the Cleveland/Oakland HR debacle. In that game, Houston manager Bo Porter was allowed to replace a pitcher who came into the game in relief but didn't deliver a pitch. No, the guy didn't have an injury. It was a clear violation as pointed out by Angels' manager Mike Sciocia. Then, the HR that wasn't in the Oakland/Cleveland game - any reasonable, objective view of that play required an overturn from a double to a HR. It seems every night we are seeing really bad calls, sometimes involving balls and strikes call at home plate. Several times early this season, teams were hurt by home plate umps make strike/ball calls that were horrendous..

I think we understand that in light of our information age gone nuts with smart phones and more, it makes it very difficult to officiate sports. When you break things down frame by frame, as we see on MLB TV, NFL Network. TBS, Fox Sports or whomever is carrying a game, it is easy to see why officiating is often held to an unreasonable standard. But, that is their job. Our officials know what is required and that is to interpret the rules objectively and when they see a miscall, they need to overturn it.

Yet, it seems to me that some of our officiating brethren are getting more arrogant and confrontational. They know they are on national TV and they don't want to be embarrassed. Sorry guys that comes with the officiating process. It should never be in the cards for the officials to call out a player or manager.

On the other hand, I do believe they need to stand firm on calls. They can't be intimidated into decisions.

All calls made in a game impact the bottom-line of a team, a franchise, a fan base one way or the other.

So, should MLB or the NFL or any of the professional sports overturn decisions and create a situation when the game will be replayed from a certain point? That is a tough call. But, something that needs to be considered as an option when atrocious calls and decisions are made and cost a team the opportunity to win a game.

The message from league offices can't simply be "the officials just made a bad judgment." That doesn't work but is the case time and again. Determinations on proper officiating and subsequent actions need to be held to a high standard. Lackadaisical or "let's not overreact because this is human judgment," should not the answers and surely can't be accepted by players, coaches fan bases and media.

I have heard the word "accountability" a lot lately. I keep wondering if the leaders in the respective sport under that that means. 

I think we all know that a little common sense and unbiased observation will lead us down the right path. When there are grotesque decisions, then the league's in the respective sports need to step up and provide some form of penalty on the officials. It appears we are seeing more of that lately. I think it is coming down to competence as Danny Knobler of CBS Sports writes: http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/blog/danny-knobler/22225809/mlbs-umpiring-problem-is-an-issue-of-competence-and-credibility

My answer is that officials on the field should not be making an overruling judgment. I believe that the organizations ruling the professional sports need to put into place a non-partisan crew whose sole job is to evaluate decisions on the field or court when necessary. No, not every call can be changed. We have to accept that some judgment calls are bang, bang plays and how someone views a play should never depends on a team's colors or time or game situation.

Regardless, it is time to take some serious action. Accountability shouldn't be a word that is hard to interpret in officiating athletics. Here is the definition: "The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner."

All eyes, especially among fans and media, are fixed on your decision on how to fix this officiating mess. I think the game's integrity hinges on that determination. Placing accountability on officials for their actions makes them responsible and ensures that competence is a defining characteristic for those in the black and white.

Monday, April 15, 2013

WIth 36 Straight Wins and 3 Titles, Can Canistota Keep It Going?

The 2012 prep football season is well behind us and the 2013 campaign still months away, yet discussion on prep football has started to unwind with the hiring of new coaches, like Chad Stadem at Sioux Falls Washington High School and others. In addition, dialogue continues on the new controversial seven class system that goes into effect when the season begins in August.

As other prep football storylines begin to unfold, one that is front and center is the 36-game winning streak by the 9A Canistota Hawks. Can they win a fourth straight 9-man title?

It is a program that suffered heavy graduation losses. Yet, Canistota has overcome the loss of talented players in each of the past three seasons, although probably not to the degree of this past season.

Will Canistota Do It Again?

Canistota head football coach Lenny Schroeder preaches defense, execution and leadership. Over a three-year period, his Hawks players have listened and carried out the plan at the highest level in South Dakota 9-man prep football ranks.

Since breaking away from a co-op with Bridgewater after the 2009 season, the Hawks have become one of the state's all-time elite 9-man squads. Canistota has recorded three straight 12-0 seasons, building a 36-game winning streak, which ranks second best all-time (Freeman, 46 straight wins in 1995-99).

After going 12-0 and winning the school's first Class B crown in 2010, Canistota lost a group of standouts, led by all-state performers Jed Olson (RB) and Sam Jolley. While those losses, as well as players like Nic Gorder, were costly, the Canistota team reloaded and kept on winning. The Hawks put together another unbeaten, 12-0 campaign in 2011. Same result with the team copping a first-ever Class A title. Now after a third straight 12-0 campaign and a second straight Class A crown, the Hawks are setting their sites on continuing their winning ways. A fourth straight title will be a difficult task but the expectations are high in the small eastern South Dakota town. 
So, how dominant has Canistota been in the 9-man ranks?

The point differential both in-season and in the playoffs spells out the power of this squad. In the playoffs, they have a fashioned a three-year combined 658-to-28 points advantage, including 212-to-14 in the 2012 season. This squad has rolled to 66-0, 66-6 and 52-8 in 9-man championship games at the DakotaDome.

In fact, the team has allowed just two TDs in three title games with only the second quarter score by Warner in 2012 coming when Canistota's first unit was on the field. The Hawks had a 25-quarter shutout streak ended in 2011 when Wall scored a late TD.

In the three seasons, the Hawks have compiled 250 TDs (88, 77, 85) with 1,843 points (627, 2010; 620, 2011; 596, 2012) while allowing just 202 (38, 2010; 61, 2011; 103, 2012) for a 51.19 to 5.6 points edge. In 9A competition, they have won 19-of-24 games by 42 points or more.

This squad was so dominant   that19 games ended early by mercy rule (SDHSAA rule) with 10 at halftime, six in the third quarter and three in the fourth quarter. Roughly that amounts to 29 quarters or seven games. If those games played out and Canistota held to its average points per game, that would mean an additional 358 points. In other words, that 1,843 points would become 2,201 points.

Canistota has accumulated 13,617 yards (7.8 miles) in total offense on 1,328 plays or 10.25 yards per play. Of that total, 10,328 have come through rushing yards, including a season-high of 3,644 in 2010.  Overall, Canistota has 1,161 rushes or an average of 8.90 yards per carry.

The Hawks' quarterbacks have completed 157-of-268 passes for 3,289 yards, which breaks out to 12.27 yards per pass and 20.94 yards per completion.

On defense, this squad has recorded 55 sacks, including 30 this past season when Jason Van Winkle had 14. They also forced 89 turnovers, including 45 interceptions and 44 fumble recoveries. In 2012, they had 27 turnovers with 29 in 2011 and 33 in 2010. Canistota has recorded 19 shutouts, including eight in 2011, seven in 2010 and four this past season.

To get a handle on the year-by-year totals, check out the stats below.

Year-by-Year breakdown -
2010 - 627 points, 38 allowed. Avg. 52.3-to-3.17 ppg.
Playoff Scoring -- 250-to-8
Overall Scoring -- 88 TDs, 86 conversions, 3 safeties, 6 PATs
Rushing yards -- 384 att., 3644 yards, 303.7 average per game, 9.49 yards per carry
Passing yards -- 993 yards, 82.8 yards per game, 19 TDs, 3 interceptions
Key players -- Jed Olson, 157 att., 1,751 yards rushing, 39 total TDs) (35 by rush, 145.9 yards per game, 11.15 average per carry. 10 games over 100; two over 200 (234, 215) and 1,822 total yards. Recorded nine games with three TDs or more, including five or four TDs or more and one with six TDs. Olson recorded 63 tackles, 3 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries. Sam Jolley, 38-of-67 for 926 yards passing; 57 carries for 478 yards for seven TDs, including 140 yards rushing. Troy Hofer, 97 carries for 812 yards and 12 total TDs with 89 tackles, 4 TFLs and five sacks. Trevor Schroeder, 21 rec., 531 yards, 13 total TDs, 52 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 6 sacks; Nic Gorder, 64 tackles, 26 solos, 6 TFLs and five sacks.
Team Notes: Canistota outscored opponents, 250-to-8 in the playoffs, including a 66-0 win over Hitchcock-Tulare in the state title game (Class B). It was a season when they went over 50 points
 nine times and three over 60. In the final five games of the season, they scored at least 50 points.

2011 - 620 points, 61 points allowed. Avg. 51.67-to-5.08 ppg.
Playoff Scoring -- 216-to-6
Overall Scoring -- 77 TDs, 78 conversions, 2 safeties, 5 PATs
Rushing yards -- 398 att., 3,539 yards, 294.9 average per game, 8.89 yards per carry
Passing yards -- 948 yards, 79.0 yards per game, 19 TDs, 2 interceptions
Key players -- Cody Bunger, 52-of-89 for 948 yards passing with 19 TDs and one interception; 82 carries for 1,192 yards, 16 TDs (37 total TDs); Alex Robertson, 144 carries for 1,022 yards and 16 TDs (12 by rush), 46 tackles, four interceptions; Nick Hofer, 25 carries for 297 yards and six TDs with two receptions for 75 yards and a TD; Jason Van Winkle, 98 tackles, 11 TFLs; Eric Tieszen, 124 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries.
Notes -- Except for a 34-26 win over Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, Canistota outscored every team by at least 37 points. Hawks won 10-of-12 games by margin of 42 points or more. They scored 50 or more points six times, including defeating Wall, 66-6, as part of a 216-to-6 points advantage in the playoffs.
2012 - 596 points, 103 allowed. Avg. 49.7-to-8.58 ppg
Playoff Scoring -- 212-to-14.
Overall Scoring -- 85 TDs (58 by rush, 20 by pass), 82 conversions, 1 safety, 4 PATs
Rushing yards -- 379 att., 3,145 yards, 262.1average per game, 8.39 yards per carry
Passing yards -- 1,348 yards, 112.3 yards per game, 20 TDs, 4 interceptions
Key players -- Cody Bunger, 59-93, 1,267 passing yards, 19 TDs, 4 int.; 107-645-17 TDs rushing; 56 tackles, 7 interceptions; Alex Robertson, 125 carries for 1,144 yards, 9.15 avg., per carry and 19 TDs, 55 tackles, 2 sacks, three interceptions, fumble recovery; Nick Hofer, 35 att., 446 yards, (12.74 avg), 7 TDs, 25 rec., 557 yards, 7 TDs; Boone DeKramer, 16 rec., 302 yards, 7 TDs, 108 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries, interception; Jason Van Winkle, 119 tackles, 14 sacks; Eric Tieszen, 90 att., 797 yards, 13 TDs; 108 tackles, 5 TFLs, two interceptions.
Notes -- Canistota recorded nine wins with at least 50 points scored (three over 60), including a three-year high of 74 points in a win over Marion on 10/12/12. The Hawks, which recorded four shutouts, ended the season with six straight games of 50 points or better, including a 52-8 win over unbeaten Warner in the Class A title game.

So, do they keep it going?
Canistota needs 10 wins to tie Freeman's record and 11 for the all-time mark. With the heavy graduation losses, Schroeder and his team faces a major challenge.

Still, this is a team that has adjusted in previous campaign. It is a team with plenty of young talent, including a few brothers of past stars on Canistota. The squad will be led by Nick Hofer, who had seven receptions for 195 yards in the 2012 title game. Hofer has accumulated 70 carries for 885 yards and 16 TDs and 27 receptions for 632 yards and eight TDs over three seasons. As such, he has accounted for 1,517 yards and 24 TDs and will be counted on heavily. Shay Jolley will be the likely quarterback, with the Hawks hoping he has follow his brother Sam's talents behind center. Others taking on leading roles will be Jerad Nielsen (7 att., 74 yards, 2 TDs, 8 tackles), Carson Hofer (10 tackles, 24 yards rushing) and Colton Gorder (10 tackles).

Can they win another 9A title? Until, they are beaten, this team will believe it can keep winning championships. Led by Schroeder, one of the state's top coaches, who knows? Don't count them out.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My View on Greinke-Quentin MLB Brawl

When a batter charges the mound in a game between last place teams, does anyone really notice? Is it a little like a tree falling in a forest; does anyone really hear it?

Is that situation, most often it serves as fodder for ESPN coverage, and probably a snide remark or two from one of the anchors. Baseball jumps in and throws a 5-game suspension or maybe 8-game suspension to players involved and then it is over.

So, when a baseball brawl involves a team, predicted to be a World Series contender (not by me), and a $147 million free agent signee and former Cy Young Award winner who gets hurt, does that change things? To some, I believe it does. For me, situations are situations and should be treated with balance. Injury or no injury, the determination of a penalty should be made based on what happened and not according to whose name, team or player, is on the jersey.

All day, I have heard the storyline involving the actions of Carlos Quentin (.253 BA, 137 HRs) of San Diego against Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers (91-78, 3.77 era). If you didn't hear (don't know how that would be possible) but if so, Quentin, who has been hit by a pitch 116 times, was hit for the second time in three games by an LA pitcher. He says Greinke was throwing at him. Greinke denies it.

Remember, that these two players have a history. Quentin played for the White Sox and Greinke came up with the Royals. During that period a few years ago, Quentin was hit a few times by Greinke.

Back to Thursday night's game, I don't believe it was intentional by Greinke. Why would Greinke throw at Quentin in a game in a 2-1 game with a 3-2 count in the sixth inning. I don't know, just my impression.

After being hit, Quentin took a step toward the mound, appeared to stop, and then rushed the mound after some venom, if appears, was spewed from Greinke's craw.

As a result, a bench clearing brawl occurred between San Diego and LA. After all was said and done, Greinke had suffered a fractured collar bone and is lost for 6-8 weeks. Quentin, among others ,was tossed from a game won by the Dodgers, 3-2. Now Quentin, who is a plate hugger, is being criticized as some type of baseball ogre/moron for his actions. Greinke, who isn't averse to throwing out trash talk, is being treated as a victim.

Radio talk show guys like Adam Schein of Mad Dog Radio (on Sirius) have been letting us know what the punishment should be. Schein suggested 30 games for Quentin. Others, like Chris Russo of Mad Dog Radio, said 10 is what likely would be the penalty. Harold Reynolds of MLB TV suggested somewhere between 5-7 while Bryan Kenny of MLB TV said more harsh punishment was needed, kind of jumping on Schein's penalty suggestion of 30 games MLB's Kevin Millar, a former player, sided with the 5-10 game penalty.

Where do I sit? I absolutely believe that Quentin will be suspended, probably in that 7-8 game range. I think he should be hit with a five-game suspension. Greinke would generally get a three-game suspension but likely will be let off the hook because of injury. Others involved like Matt Kemp will get suspensions ranging from 1-3 games..

As I deliberate my own thoughts on it, I keep wondering is this a much ado about nothing? OK, it was something, Greinke was hurt, but I believe as much his own doing as Quentin. He did not back down and threw a shoulder into the 240-pound Quentin as the San Diego slugger rushed him. Tough-minded, OK. Smart, no way.

As I watched the play, I could see that a little bad blood was boiling between the two players.

Did Quentin overreact? Yes. But, I think he was fueled into rage after Greinke's said something. I don't know what was said but Quentin reacted. Quentin should have just taken his base but he didn't.

Baseball is full of hot heads like Quentin. And when MLB's Bryan Kenny advocates legislating out the batter leaving the box to charge the mound, he seems to be going a bit far. This doesn't happen every night. Baseball is different than other sports I think baseball is just fine.

Yes, injuries come from these hot-headed incidents. This isn't the first, nor will it be the last. As I said earlier, MLB should treat these situations one-by-one. And, MLB's Joe Torre, the former Yankees and Dodgers manager, shouldn't stand up for his former coach Don Mattingly, now the Dodgers' manager. Torre needs to recuse himself and just let  Joe Gariogiola Jr., do his job in ruling about on-field actions. Treat this as has been other similar type situations.

There have been incidents in baseball for a long-time. More are coming.

Let's not chop down a trusty old tree over a splintered branch.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hod, Goodbye My Friend

Tears filled my eyes on Wednesday.

When I heard that a dear friend, Howard "Hod" Nielsen, had died, it struck me pretty hard. I had not seen Hod in awhile which further exasperated my feelings.

As I read memorials this week about Hod, his story and who he was poured out in newspaper columns, and social media circles. Each of these tributes, including Randy Dockendorf of the Yankton Press and Dakotan, Mick Garry of the Argus Leader, Kelly Hertz of the Yankton Press and Dakotan and James Cimburek of the Yankton Press and Dakotan brought out different stories and perspectives. All of them showcased the respect, honor and integrity ingrained in one of Yankton's favorite sons.

I never met Hod until he was about 58 years old - 35 years ago. From that day forward, we were friends, pure and simple.

My first meeting with Hod occurred in 1988 while I was USD's media relations director. As such, I sometimes ventured over to visit another friend and SID at the time - Mike Mahon (later Drake SID and Coyote Sports Hall of Fame inductee). This occasion I was discussing with Mike about filling the sports pages of the South Dakotan, USD's alumni publication. While there, Mike told me that Hod Nielsen of the Yankton Press and Dakotan  was going to stop by. I knew of this guy - I read Hod's column every week. Full of history and perspective, his words shined about prep or collegiate sports or some remarkable achievement in South Dakota's unique sports history. But, I had not met him.

That afternoon, Mahon told me a little about Nielsen, a 1949 USD graduate and former Coyote football player in the 1940s (all 140 pounds of him). He had been a World War II photo reconnaissance pilot in World War II. Nielsen, who would be referenced by another Yankton son, Tom Brokaw in his book, "The Greatest Generation," flew a stripped down and unarmed P-38 over occupied Europe during WWII. Unlike his brother, Bob,, Hod made it home, nearly miraculously as he was among just seven of 27 crew members to survive the rigors of that war. He was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with oak leaf cluster, and a President Unit Citation. He achieved the rank of Captain. A hero to his core.

On that day, we didn't talked about World War II - fact is - we rarely spoke of that time. We talked about something USD- oriented and then laughed a bit. From that day, I felt a connection to Hod.

Every ensuing time I saw Hod, he always had a smile, a story to tell, a joke to make or an insight that was almost always on point. I always relished our time together.

From what I know about him, Hod Nielsen did a lot in 92 years of life. Sports editor and writer at the Press and Dakotan for more than 40 years, his column, "Play-by-Play," was part of the P&D for more than 40 years, well after retirement. Nielsen was also a radio guy with a career that began in the 1950. He did great work at KYNT-AM, including working at numerous South Dakota basketball tournaments. Hod became the voice of the Yankton Bucks and spent a time in the 1980s broadcasting for his alma mater - The University of South Dakota, a cherished time for the former Coyote. He is the only South Dakota media person to be named Sportswriter of the Year and Broadcaster of the Year. One of the founders of the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, Nielsen has been named to nearly every hall I can think of. Beyond that, he raised a family and did a lot of volunteer work and service in Yankton.

While media relations director, Mike convinced me (as did Hod) to take part in the H&K Open (I believe it was called) in Irene. "Ok, I thought, I will go over and hit a few balls." While there, I didn't kill any birds or hit any people with my wayward golfing stroke but I did lose about a dozen balls. That is a common theme with my golfing.

I have never forgotten my first time at the golf outing. The real value was interacting with a smorgasbord of people from media types to business guys to educators. Hod and Mike were right, it was well worth my time. Stories, some enlarged and exaggerated over time, flowed like beer from a tap. I went to it a few times, each experience feeding my thirst for sports history and the trips and experiences that people encountered when they coached, played, officiated or simply went to watch.

In 2000 when I took over SID chores at USD, I was able to see Hod on a regular basis. He would pop in and our talks would go on for awhile before we took care of his business at hand. Sometimes, he was there to do an interview or wanted a little data about a player or some alum. I soon realized that Hod was one of those walking/talking South Dakota sports history books. His passion for Yankton Bucks athletics was a topic at times but mostly we discussed his beloved Coyotes.

I recall numerous discussions about Harry Gamage, Carl "Rube" Hoy, Moose Merrigan,Joe Salem, Dwayne Clodfelter, Bob Mulcahy and the many others that fill the Coyotes book of lore. I learned a lot about Coyote sports history from Hod Nielsen.

From my view, Hod knew about nearly everything that happened in South Dakota, especially the southeast corner, over the past seven or so decades. I learned a lot from that man.

Hod was among the best storytellers I have known. Taking a trip through history with Hod was captivating and you felt like you were on the field or court as he described a game, a memorable moment or an exceptional individual. Hod, who never involved himself in the narrative, had that Dakota Spirit - a South Dakota guy through and through.

As I reflected on Hod this week, I recalled my first week in the SID office when he gave me the go-ahead to ask him for anything I needed in the new job. His invaluable insight proved fruitful so many times. He even wrote a column about SIDs and I was humbled when he mentioned my name.

Every Saturday like clockwork, Hod made his way up the DakotaDome steps for his place at the north end of the pressbox for the football game. Before the game began, he would venture to the field to say hey to a few Yankton players or coaches on the sidelines. When the NCC played games on back-to-back nights, he always was there. He found his place along press row beside Mick Garry of the Argus Leader, Terry Hersom of the Sioux City Journal, the P&D's Jeremy Hoeck or James Cimburek, Volante staffers among others. He always kept his own notes about the game and would let me know if we screwed something up in stats or about some historical bit.

As I noted earlier, Hod rarely spoke to me about WWII but when he did, he opened up a bit. As someone intriqued by that war, I listened intently and learned about the price that his generation paid. Later I came to understand his feelings about his country, that war and the loss of friends and brothers in battle. One night, the decision was reached to play the National Anthem during the USD women's game only, foregoing the  men's game to provide some extra time to do some promotion of some sort. It was a mistake.

That night, Hod was upset and I didn't know why until after talking with him the next day. His pride of country - and his lost military brothers - and the importance of the anthem had a special place in his heart as it resonates with all the veterans. We corrected that anthem issue immediately.

There were so many experiences with Hod and I could go on. But mostly, our connection we shared remained strong. We always had sports dialogue to share and matters that friends talk about like job and family.

When I left USD he was among the first people, I talked to about my next step in life. He showed his true friendship and support.  We shared a coffee and vowed to stay connected.

Sometimes distance separates friends and time winds away. I made a couple of trips to Yankton but not enough, not nearly enough. Our meetings became rare as we would only meet at events at USD or in Sioux Falls or some regional sporting venue such as the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.

There are few people that are as genuine as Hod Nielsen. He was a man of honor and humble to the core. He was a guy that always had time for people and carried a gracious, heart-warming smile and demeanor. He was disarming and always treated people with respect. A conversation with Hod was a feel-good moment.

I will miss that - I will miss him.

I always respected Hod's way of doing things. Most memorable was the way he would always find me to say hello upon his arrival at an event. After games ended, he stopped down at my office as I was frantically getting post-game stuff accomplished. No interruptions, just a quick wave and a goodbye message.,

In a sense, I feel robbed that I don't have those conversations, those hellos and goodbyes, with Hod anymore.  

Sleep well my friend, I wish the heavens would open up for one more conversation.

I will head to Yankton on Monday for his funeral at 10:30 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran, which will be full of his family, friends, colleagues and neighbors.

I have to tell him goodbye.

Tears are still filling my eyes.