The SDHSAA state basketball tournaments are still postponed – not canceled – due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That directly affects a pair of area teams – the Sioux Valley boys and the Flandreau girls.
The Class B girls’ tourney began March 12 with four quarterfinal contests before being postponed. No. 1 Corsica-Stickney (24-0), No. 4 Faith, No. 6 De Smet and No. 7 Castlewood advanced to the semifinals.
The Class A and AA boys’ and girls’ and Class B boys’ tourneys were supposed to begin Thursday and conclude today.
The big question remains – will this be the season of what could’ve been?
“We are in out-of-season contact rules at this stage as if the state tournament had concluded. And we are in in-season rules for spring sports,” said Cossack coach Bill Vincent. “At this stage, we’ve just left the guys alone and given everyone their space. I do believe that kids are kids and that they’re still going out in their driveway and shooting, doing individual workouts and whatever that might be. And for some of them it was just getting some space anyhow and get away from the game for a little bit.”
Sioux Valley has a 21-1 record and is the No. 2 seed in the Class A boys’ tournament.
The Cossacks won the Big East Conference (7-0) and Lake Central Conference (6-0) regular-season crowns, also claiming the BEC Tournament title. Their lone loss was a 57-48 setback to No. 1 St. Thomas More in the Hanson Classic on Jan. 25 at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.
Sioux Valley is to play Dell Rapids in the quarterfinals at state if the tourney is contested.
“It’s different for all of the schools across the state because there is only a small percentage still remaining that had qualified for the state tournament,” Vincent added. “Everyone else that had their seasons come to an end and for the most part their track seasons or their spring sports seasons had not started yet – so for a lot of these kids, they haven’t felt any different yet because they would just kind of be between sports right now anyhow.
“For those teams remaining, the pain is a little greater in the fact that it’s something you’ve worked for and strived to complete and have been moving towards. And, of course, we felt like we were one of the favorites or one of the teams that has an opportunity to win this thing.”
The Cossacks have qualified for state 13 times – with 10 of the appearances coming since 2000.
They have three seniors this year in Max Nielson, Ryan Schuster and Lane VanderWal. Nielson hit 10 3-pointers and scored 38 points in a 72-59 SoDak 16 win over Parker on March 10 in Madison.
“When you have three seniors that all contribute – they’re our captains; they’re the leaders of our team – that makes it even that much tougher with the possibility that you might not get to finish off what you started,” Vincent said. “The other thing that makes it tough is everything unfolded so fast in terms of everything coming down on Friday and then school closings and on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. is when out-of-season rules went in place by the SDHSAA – so you haven’t really even been able to talk to your team, talk to your group, talk to your seniors and get a feel for where everyone’s at or say thank you for what they have done to this stage or anything like that. So it made it very awkward, that’s for sure.”
The Fliers are in a similar position. Despite being the No. 6 seed, they’re one of the top teams in the state, boasting a 21-2 record, and entered the tourney with high hopes.
“If it would have been a situation where we were like the 16 seed beating the 1 seed (in the SoDak 16) that would have almost felt like a state tournament to us. But knowing that we were incredibly competitive and had an opportunity to fight for a state title, that’s hard,” said coach Megan Severtson. “Because we weren’t just satisfied with winning that (SoDak 16) game, we were looking forward to that whole state tournament experience.”
Flandreau won BEC (7-0) and LCC (6-0) regular-season titles. It fell 61-55 to Tea Area in its second game of the year and 76-54 to McCook Central/Montrose in the BEC Tournament final Feb. 1 in Salem.
Flandreau is to square off with No. 3 Hamlin (20-2) in the quarterfinals.
The Fliers beat the Chargers 59-51 in the Entringer Classic on Dec. 21 in Colman.
Flandreau has four seniors – Hannah Parsley, Tishara Hardy, Kennedy Headrick and Shalyn Peters. Parsley is one of the top players in the state. Hardy buried seven treys and had 22 points in a 60-55 defeat of West Central during SoDak 16 action March 9 in Madison.
Flandreau last qualified for the state tournament in 1997.
“It’s hard because the (SoDak 16) game was only 10 days ago but it feels like it’s been a month,” Severtson added. “I don’t know if it’s because we haven’t been practicing and that’s what kind of leads to that feeling or what, but I kind of left it with my girls last week when they all met in my classroom. There were already some tears and everything.
“I just told them, you know, we have to learn to kind of battle through disappointment. And I assured them if there is a state tournament it’s not going to be what we expected.
“Right now, our hopes are just that it happens and that’s all I could really give them. It’s hard because they all look at you with this look on their face like ‘tell us; help us fix this.’ They’re looking to me for that, but I’m going at this blind, too.”
Will the remaining teams get closure?
That remains to be seen.