The fifth-seeded Bobcats will tip off against No. 4 Brandon Valley at 6 p.m. Thursday night in the State AA Girls’ Basketball Tournament – the first BHS team to do so since 2008.
What’s the state tournament appearance mean to first-year head coach Mitch McLagan?
“It’s pretty special, but the biggest thing – and the coaching staff talks about it a lot – it’s not about us; we’re so happy for the girls, especially our group of seniors that have worked for this for quite some time.
“So we’re really happy for our group of seniors and everyone else in our program – what it’s going to do for our culture going forward – it’s really going to help our program.”
The ‘Cats have already seen a surge in attendance in 2018-19, despite a mirror schedule that saw the boys’ team – and parents and fans – on the road when the girls played at Bob Jostad.
Brookings’ crowd for the SoDak 16 showdown against Douglas for the state tournament berth surpassed 1,000 and was “electric” and loud.
“A lot of times, we coaches like to complain about not having a crowd,” McLagan said, “but at the same time, you have to give the community members a reason to come and I thought we did a pretty good job of that – I thought we played a fun brand of basketball – the way we moved the ball can be exciting.
“There’s a lot of options in town, and I thought our girls did a nice job of making that entertainment.”
Thursday’s matchup in Barnett Arena between Brookings (15-4) and Brandon Valley (17-4) will be the third time that the teams have seen each other this season, with each team winning on its home court – 54-48 for the Bobcats on Jan. 4 at Jostad and 53-37 for the Lynx on Feb. 1 in Brandon.
“At home, when we beat them, we really beat them up inside; we kept getting the ball inside. … Michaela Jewett and Johanna Miller had big nights – they both scored 17 – a lot of it was in transition and getting the ball inside,” said McLagan.
“When we went to their place, they did a nice job of collapsing on our post players and they beat us up physically – they were just stronger than us that night.
“They are very athletic; they play a deep bench – their point guard Trinity Law does a really nice job of getting penetration, and then, when you help out, they have shooters on the outside. We’re going to have to keep Law in front of us; can’t let her beat us to the basket or they’re really a dangerous team offensively.
“Offensively, we need to move the basketball – if we get the ball inside and they’re going to collapse, we have to look to kick out. If we can match their physicality, it’s going to really be a good game. Brandon Valley will pick you up full court and they’ll get really handsy with you – depending on how (the game) is called, that can be draining on us – a team that goes only seven deep. When we’re asking the same person to bring the ball up, and they’re being handsy, it can make for a long night.”
Top-seeded Sioux Falls O’Gorman, 18-3, takes on No. 8 Mitchell, 13-8, at 2 p.m. in Barnett Arena in the other game in the Bobcats’ bracket, while in the bottom bracket, No. 2 Harrisburg, 17-4, and seventh-seeded Rapid City Stevens, 15-6, also face off at 2 p.m. in the Ice Arena. In the Ice Arena, third-seeded Sioux Falls Lincoln, 14-6, meets No. 6 Sioux Falls Washington, 13-7, in the other 6 p.m. matchup.
“As coaches, we sat down and looked at seeds – originally, we thought there’s five or six teams that have a legitimate shot at winning this tournament,” said McLagan. “Don’t get me wrong, those bottom seeds can go and beat anybody, but the part where you’re putting three games together where you are going to have to beat three really good teams in a row. … but whoever gets hot at the right time…
“The teams in the top six have all beat up on each other – it’s fun having this talented roster, but I don’t know if we picked the right time to have this good of a roster – the state of AA basketball on the girls’ side is really good right now.”
The fact that all eight teams that are in the AA tournament have winning records is a testament to that the two-year-old SoDak 16 format is working – a case in point where the best eight teams get a legitimate chance to play in the tournament.
“We are doing a much better job than we have in the past – the SoDak 16 is the right format – I still think we need to tweak (it) where we play everybody,” McLagan said. “Depending on what schedule you play, you can get a better matchup, but as we saw, the top eight teams in the SoDak 16 all won, so when you see that, obviously, it’s working.
“I think it’s all about getting the best eight teams there because it’s just going to make for a more competitive tournament.”
This is also the second year in a row that the AA boys’ and girls’ tournaments have been held in the same site.
“I don’t necessarily like it – when it’s combined together, I don’t think we do a very good job of showcasing girls’ basketball,” said McLagan. “You start looking at semifinal games and championship games, I feel like those should be more prime time, but now you’re starting a girls’ championship game at 4 or 5 in the afternoon – I just don’t like that – I wish to see (the tournaments) broken up again.
“(But) there’s also the positives with it – for a basketball fan, it’s enjoyable to watch some of the boys’ games, as well.”
• No. 1 Sioux Falls O’Gorman (18-3) vs. No. 8 Mitchell (13-8)
Barnett Arena, 2 p.m.
Head to Head – The Lady Knights beat the Kernels, 53-37, on Feb. 16 at home.
Players to watch
O’Gorman – Emma Ronsiek (6-1 Senior Forward) averages 15.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to go along with 55 assists and 24 steals on the season. Carly Kunkel (5-7 Junior Guard) added 6 ppg and totaled 54 assists while Awoti Akoi (6-2 Senior Center) chipped in with 5.6 points and 5.7 rebounds an outing.
Mitchell – Tess Limberg (5-6 Senior Guard) averages 11.7 points with 34 assists and 24 steals on the season. Mackenzie Miller (5-11 Senior Center) added 9.7 ppg and 4.1 rpg; Payton Morgan (5-8 Senior Guard/Forward) contributed 9.1 ppg and a season total of 37 assists; as Taylor Factor (5-8 Senior Guard) finished with 8.3 ppg and 3.8 rpg with 45 steals on the season.
• No. 2 Harrisburg (17-4) vs. No. 7 Rapid City Stevens (15-6)
Ice Arena, 2 p.m.
Head to Head – Did not play.
Players to watch
Harrisburg – Jenna Ugofsky (6-1 Senior Forward/Center) averaged 11.7 ppg and 9.2 rpg to go along with 80 assists and 56 steals on the season. Aby Phipps (6-0 Junior Guard/Forward) added 9.5 ppg and 4.5 assists per contest.
Rapid City Stevens – Kyah Watson (6-0 Junior Guard/Forward) averaged 13.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game while Grace Martin (5-11 Junior Guard/Forward) was good for 7.7 ppg while Bailee Sobczak (6-0 Freshman Guard/Forward) chipped in with 7 ppg and 7.5 rpg.
• No. 3 Sioux Falls Lincoln (14-6) vs. No. 6 Sioux Falls Washington
Ice Arena, 6 p.m.
Head to Head – Patriots lost at the Warriors, 59-49, on Dec. 11, but avenged that loss with a 63-62 win on their home court on Jan. 24.
Players to watch
Lincoln – Morgan Hansen (6-1 Junior Forward) averaged 14.7 ppg and 7.6 rpg with a team high 47 assists, while Emma Osmundson (5-10 Junior Forward) added 14.6 ppg and 4.7 rpg with a team high 45 steals.
Washington – Peyton Rymerson (5-9 Senior Guard) averaged 11.6 ppg and 5.8 rpg, to go along with 76 assists and 34 steals. Samiya Jami (6-1 Senior Center) added 9.1 ppg and 6.4 rpg, while Sydni Schetnan (6-5 Sophomore Center) came off the bench and added 11 ppg and 7.1 rpg.
• No. 4 Brandon Valley (17-4) vs. No. 5 Brookings (15-4)
Barnett Arena, 6 p.m.
Head to Head – Bobcats won 54-48 at home on Jan. 4 while the Lynx evened the season series with a 53-37 win on their home court on Feb. 1.
Players to watch
Brandon Valley – Trinity Law (5-9 Senior Guard) averaged 11 ppg along with 3.3 assists and 2.6 steals an outing. Danica Kocer (5-9 Senior Forward) also put up 11 ppg.
Brookings – Michaela Jewett (6-0 Senior Forward) is the only player in the tournament to average a double-double with 19 ppg and 11 rpg, to go along with 40 assists and 23 steals on the season. Johanna Miller (6-3 Junior Center) averaged 10.7 ppg and 7 rpg. Ava Burns (5-8 Senior Forward) averaged 7.8 ppg and 3.8 rpg with 44 assists and 19 steals. Carolyn Hieb (5-6 Senior Guard) put up 4.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg and dealt out 69 assists. Alli Gordon (5-7 Senior Guard) averaged 4 ppg, 2.3 rpg and dished out 36 assists.