RAPID CITY — Although the second half of the season didn’t go quite as well as the first half, the Huron boys’ basketball team was able to earn its way into the Class AA State Tournament. Now the Tigers are looking to end the season with a bang at the three-day event, which begins today at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
“The AA field is wide open in my opinion,” said Huron coach Jon Schouten, who guided the team back to the state tournament during his first season at the helm. “We know that we can play with everyone in the field when we play together on both ends – when we share the ball with multiple-pass possessions and great movement, and attack the ball on the defensive end with great togetherness.”
The Tigers, who are 12-9 after a victory against Watertown in the SoDak 16, will face second-seeded and defending champion Yankton, which is 17-4 in the opening round at 3 p.m. MT today in the Ice Arena.
“We are excited with our matchup. Anytime you get to play the defending state champs in the state tournament you are in for a great challenge,” Schouten said. “Our guys are excited and ready to compete with one of the tournament favorites.”
In the other opening-round games, top-seeded Sioux Falls Lincoln (18-2) will play No. 8 Harrisburg (12-9) at 3 p.m. MT in Barnett Arena; third-seeded Sioux Falls O’Gorman (16-5) will play No. 6 Sioux Falls Roosevelt (13-8) at 7 p.m. MT in the Ice Arena; and No. 4 Brandon Valley (16-5) will play No. 5 Rapid City Stevens (15-6) at 7 p.m. MT in Barnett Arena.
In the previous meeting with Yankton, which was played Jan. 8 in Yankton, the Tigers rallied late but came up on the short end of a 66-60 decision against the Bucks.
“When we played them the first time in January our defense wasn’t too consistent. We had moments where we were in sync as a group, but it wasn’t all night,” Schouten said. “For us to have a chance, we will need to be sure to make everything tough for them — no open looks and nothing easy to the rim. We need to play together as a team and have each other’s backs.”
One of the main focuses for the Huron defensive unit will be containing 6-foot-7 sophomore Matthew Mors, who went off for a career-high 46 points in the previous meeting.
Mors has averged 22.7 points per game this season to lead the Bucks, while junior guard Cooper Cornemann has also averaged in double figures with 11.4 points.
Junior Teegan Evers has sparked the Tigers with season with averages of 17.8 points and 6.7 rebounds, while junior teammate Kobe Busch has averged 16.6 points and 7.5 rebounds. Tanner Evers and Nathan Boehrns have averages of 8.7 and 7.8 points, respectively.
Schouten knows it is going to take a total team effort for the Tigers to be successful in the state tournament and has seen his team come together as the season has progressed.
“Every guy on our team has made significant contributions to the team’s success this season,” he said. “Everybody has their role — some guys score, some guys rebound, some guys dive on the floor for loose balls, some guys are the energy and other guys do a little bit of everything. Every single player, coach and manager is vital to this team.”
A victory in today’s game will move the Tigers into the semfinals, where they will face either Sioux Falls O’Gorman or Sioux Falls Roosevelt at 8:15 p.m. MT on Friday in Barnett Arena. A loss today will push the Huron into the consolation bracket, where it will face the loser between O’Gorman and Roosevelt at 12:45 p.m. MT in Barnett Arena.
The final round will be played on Saturday.
The Class AA games in Barnett Arena will be televised on SDPB 1, while games in the Ice Arena will be on SDPB 4.