ABERDEEN — The two teams that squared off for the Class B state title a year ago will face each other in the opening round of the 2019 Class B Boys’ Basketball Tournament, which begins today at the Barnett Center in Aberdeen.
Sully Buttes, which is the defending Class B champion, enters this year’s tournament as the No. 6 seed with a 19-3 record, will face third-seeded Clark-Willow Lake, which is the No. 3 seed with a 20-2 mark in the opening round at 7:45 p.m. Today.
“Going to a state tournament isn’t something we take lightly. Our focus going into this is to win it, just like the other seven teams,” Clark-Willow Lake coach Jerome Nesheim said. “We have been there before so the bright lights shouldn’t play a factor. “
In the other matchups in the opening round today, top-seeded White River (20-2) will face No. 8 Viborg-Hurley (21-2) at noon; fourth-seeded Jones County (19-2) will face No. 5 De Smet (21-2) at 1:45 p.m.; and second-seeded Timber Lake (18-2) will face No. 7 Bridgewater-Emery (19-4) at 6 p.m.
“The state tournament is loaded with very good teams. No. 1 through 8 are very good teams,” Nesheim said. “There are no easy wins in this tournament.”
While having their sights set on the big prize, the Cyclones know they need to take it one game at a time to reach that point and right now their focus is on the opening game, according to Nesheim.
“Sully Buttes has another top quality team that is well coached. They are going to put competitive athletes on the floor and they are a very physical team,” he said. “They are very athletic, with good strength and will play towards their strengths. We are hoping our size this year is something we can take advantage of.”
Clark-Willow Lake, which opened the season with 10 straight wins, will bring a senior-laden roster into the state tournament.
Seniors Jacob Prouty, Grayson Florey and Micah Burke are three-year starters for the Cyclones. They will be joined in the starting lineup by senior Travis O’Neill and junior Stone Burke, while senior Jeffry Paulson and freshman Tyler O’Neill play big roles off the bench.
“You will not find two guys who will out-work Prouty and Florey,” Neishem said.
Prouty, a 6-foot-1 guard, has averaged a team-high 19.9 points per game this season for the Cyclones, with a team-high 112 assists and has converted on 41 three-point field goals.
“He has tremendous leadership skills and is a great competitor,” Neishem said of Prouty. “The bigger the game, the better he gets.”
Florey is a 5-11 guard, who has averaged 7.2 points this season and is known for his tough defensive prowness.
“He has taken 51 charges in three years. He is a great defender with good quickness,” Neishem said of Florey.
Micah Burke is a 6-6 center and has averaged 14.9 points while snagging an average of 9.2 rebounds.
“He has developed into one of the best big men in the state,” Nesheim said of Micah Burke.
Stone Burke, a 6-4 post player, has also averaged in double figures this season for the Cyclones with 12.5 points, while pulling down a team-high average of 9.6 rebounds.
A victory in today’s game will send Clark-Willow Lake into the semfinals against either Timber Lake or Bridgewater-Emery on Friday at 7:45 p.m. A loss will push the Cyclones into the consolation round, where they will face one of those two teams at 1:45 p.m. on Friday.
The final round will be played on Saturday.
The Class B Tournament will be televised on SDPB3.