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2018-19 South Dakota High School Girls Basketball Preview

The defending champs in all three classes have very different narratives this season.

  • Aberdeen Central is in rebuilding mode without the star power of last year’s senior class.
  • St. Thomas More has their dynasty on the edge with less returning starters than they’re used to having.
  • Castlewood used five players to ride to a title last season but have graduated three and one of their returning players is injured.

The challenge is real, and the challengers are ready. Here’s more about the top teams and their 2018-19 season outlooks.

Girls AA

1. Sioux Falls O’Gorman

Last Year: 17-7

Returning Starters: 4

Head Coach: Kent Kolsrud

Outlook

The Lady Knights return arguably the top player in the class Emma Ronsiek, who exploded during her sophomore season for 19.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG and earned All-State recognition. But she’s not the only thing this team has going for them. Awoti Akoi, Rylee Benson and Abigale Muller add senior leadership, and they all have starting experience. Junior Carly Kunkel and sophomores Izzy Moore and Raegen Reilly all saw action last year and should be a major part of this rotation.

Important Numbers:

O’Gorman returns 82% of their scoring from last year. Awoti Akoi averaged over 2 blocks per game.

 

2. Brandon Valley

Last Year: 15-9

Returning Starters: 4

Head Coach: Mark Stadem

Outlook

One of the most athletic teams around, the Lynx look to improve on their 4th place finish at the state tournament. Seniors Danica Kocer and Tritinty Law lead a seasoned group ready to play with the top teams in the state. Kocer hit 55 threes last season at a nearly 50% clip and led the team in scoring, while Law led the team in steals with 58 and was the second leading scorer. Ashley Wells, Lexi Ellingson, Lauren Wells, Sam Taylor and Hailey Peiper are all seniors and are all back to make a run.

Important Numbers:

Brandon Valley Returns their top-three scorers, rebounders and their top five in assists.

 

3. Sioux Falls Lincoln

Last Year: 19-4 (3rd at state tournament)

Returning Starters: 4

Head Coach: Matt Daly

Outlook

"We have many players that will be playing major varsity minutes for the first time, so it might take time to find our depth," said Coach Daly, "but our team has speed, length, shooters, both a perimeter and post presence, and a defensive mindset. If we play hard, we should be competitive with other  teams in the state.”

Morgan Hansen and Emma Osmundson are both juniors who averaged double-digit points last year. Sydnaya Dunn and Lexi Hochstein are seniors, and Mya Wilson is back as a junior to provide some of the best defense in the state. They’ll also have Valarie Higgins, Brooke Brown and Jaydyn Fikse for depth in the frontcourt, and Sydney Huber, Cheyenne Miller and Brooke Lindsay should provide depth in the backcourt.

Important Numbers:

The Pats held opponents to 45.3 PPG last year and had their second best record (19-4) in school history.

 

4. Harrisburg

Last Year: 16-8 (Runner-up at state)

Returning Starters: 3

Head Coach: Nick Mayer

Outlook

The Tigers made quite a run last year at state, coming up just one game short of a title. Two of their best scorers are back this year: Jeniah Ugofsky and Aby Phipps. Ugofsky is a USD commit, and Phipps had a breakout sophomore year last season. Look for others – like Sadie Roth, Sydney Altenburg, Kiki Berndt, Faith Van Holland and Brecli Honner – to give the team a lot of minutes this year.

 

5. Rapid City Stevens

Last Year: 19-5

Returning Starters: 3

Head Coach: Michael Brooks

Outlook

After a good regular season, Stevens didn’t end it the way they planned – claiming 7th at the state tournament. The good news is head Coach Michael Brooks is back for his third year at the school.

“We have lots of young talent combined with juniors and seniors who have 2-3 years of varsity experience, who will need to lead the team to compete at a high level,” said Brooks.

Junior Kyah Watson makes things go for the Raiders. Watson led the team in scoring last year and has multiple D-I offers, but her defense is what makes her great. She is one of the best defenders in the state. (She led the Raiders in steals in her sophomore and freshman seasons.)

Elizabeth Schaeffer, Grace Martin, Delaney Klosterman and Cameron Karley are all back in the fold as the Raiders reload. Look for sophomore Kenadi Rising to add to the team’s depth this year.

 

Others

Aberdeen Central

Last Year: 22-1

Returning Starters: 1

Head Coach: Dawn Seiler

Outlook

Cassidy Gough, Emma Yeske and Melia Mounga (returning from ACL injury) are the remaining pieces from the championship team the Golden Eagles put on the floor last year. Aberdeen Central has compiled 20 or more wins in each of the last four seasons – which may be tough to repeat this year.

“After graduating eight seniors from last year's championship team, we will have to rebuild. We will rely on some sophomores to play major minutes,” said Coach Seiler.

Look for some new faces like Jihanna Gellhaus, Abby Kopecky, Brooklyn Kusler, Claire Angerhofer, Mel Jacobs, Maddie Diede, Olivia Goetz, Aly Bauer, and Melea Gobert to get some minutes.

Sioux Falls Washington

Last Year: 11-12 (5th at State)

Returning Starters: 1

Head Coach: Jamie Parish

Outlook

“We graduated four perimeter players from last year's team," said Coach Parish. "After a rough start, we finished very strong – winning 10 of our last 14 and finishing 5th at the state tournament. We are returning one starter, Samiya Jami, who was our leading scorer and rebounder as a junior. We will have very good size underneath with our post players. Our perimeter players are talented but have not been tested yet. We hope to have a great summer with this group as they prepare for next season.”

Rapid City Central

Last Year: 9-14

Returning Starters: 4

Head Coach: Kraig Blomme

Outlook

“We will be very similar to last season as we only lost one starter," said Coach Blomme. "We are a small team, so rebounding has been a struggle for us and will continue to be. We must keep games low scoring, as we will not be a consistently high-scoring team.”

Juneau Jones is a fifth-year varsity player for the Cobblers and should help pick up the scorning slack left in the absence of Bailey Johnson. Jones (71 steals, 7.1 RPG) is already one of the best defenders and rebounders in the state. Abbie Freeman, Whitley Heitsch and Adi Young all have starting experience and are back. Look for Jordon Heckert and Kenya Merrival to dive into the rotation this year.

Brookings

Last Year: 11-10

Returning Starters: 3

Head Coach: Mitch McLagan

Outlook

“I am very excited to start my first year as the Bobcats head coach,” said Coach McLagan. “We have a group of girls that really want to win. The state tournament is not something that the Brookings girls basketball team has done for quite some time.”

The Bobcats have four seniors who have very high expectations, including six-footer Michaela Jewitt in the post, and Ava Burns, Carolyn Hieb and Alli Gordon who hold the backcourt down. A future Augustana player, Jewitt led the Bobcats in points, rebounds, and blocks as a junior last year.

Huron

Last Year: 0-20

Returning Starters: 2

Head Coach: Tim Buddenhagen

Outlook

Long-time boys Head Coach Tim Buddenhagen is making the switch to coach girls basketball this year.

“This is my first year with the girls," he said. "We are planning on playing fast on the offensive end. We will push to get easy shots and spread the floor to use our quickness to get to the basket and to create shots from the perimeter. Defensively, we will have to pick up full court to make up for our lack of size.”

The offensive punch will come from Havyn Heinz, who went for 15.2 PPG last year. Sami Shoultz, Tenley Buddenhagen, Allyson Fullerton and Kylie Overbay all bring experience back to the lineup.

Sioux Falls Roosevelt

Last Year: 4-17

Returning Starters: 4

Head Coach: David Maxwell

Outlook

Four starters are back, and five players with significant varsity experience are back.

Macey Nielson, Tatum Kooima and Hattie Giblin lead a talented junior class as Roosevelt tries to make its way back into contention. Seniors Tariah Ambrose and Brooke Almendinger also return to the mix, but the team’s depth will be something to watch. They have seven to eight players ready to make a contribution, but they are young.

“Our depth is talented but young and inexperienced. As our bench gets more comfortable and grows throughout the season, I think we will be able to compete with anyone by the end of the season,” said Coach Maxwell

Important Numbers: The Riders shot better from three-point range (35%) than they did from two-point range (34%) last year. 

Watertown

Last Year: 5-16

Returning Starters: 2

Head Coach: Tommy Mattingly

Outlook

“We will have senior depth this season, as we will look to lean on them for their leadership and understanding of the system," Coach Mattingly said. "We will need to find a way to replace Anni Cummings’ production as she works her way back from a knee injury.”

Anni Cummings and Megan Fannin are both double-digit scorers who should supply most of the points. Mariah Gloe and Meghan Heggelund will also offensive threats. Watertown should have better options on the bench this year, with players like Anni Norberg, Sierra Tennis, Alexa Buckley and Kailey Lindahl ready to go. Juniors Siri Kranz, Devyn Keller and Sadie Danielsen will all be providing depth, and look for sophomore Maggie Heesch to make an impact as well.

Important Numbers: Watertown got to the foul line significantly more than their opponents last season despite a 5-16 record.

Yankton

Last Year: 5-16

Returning Starters: 4

Head Coach: Trey Krier

Outlook

“We are excited about our season because we have significant experience coming back from last year. We entered last season with 11 PPG returning from the previous year.  This year we return the majority of our offensive production from last year,” said Coach Krier.

Yankton's highest volume three-point shooters are back this season: Madison Wuebben (35-11), Payton Wolfgram (13-41) and Sadie Fedders (6-25). Wuebben and Maddy Hochstein provide most of the offensive punch, with Wolfgram and Fedders supplying extra firepower.

Pierre

Last Year: 9-12

Returning Starters: 3

Head Coach: Scott DeBoer

Outlook

“We have an opportunity this year to return enough experience to be competitive early in the season. The key for us will be adding depth to the 5-6 girls who saw significant minutes last season,” said Coach DeBoer.

The Govs should be improved this year. Pierre has the first-team all-state point guard back this year, Emily Mikkelsen. She averaged 15.1 PPG with almost three assists per game. Their second leading scorer, Mack Rath, is also back, as well as returning starter Kodi Severyn. Plus, they should get Kylee Thorpe back, who missed last season due to injury.

 

Girls A

1. St. Thomas More

The Cavaliers are the standard of excellence in Class A. This season, they have two starters back – Alex Kandolin and Haleigh Timmer – with an experienced group of players like Skyler Sullivan, Ciara Benson, Lizzy Elder and Casey Cooper in the rotation. They will also welcome freshman Marin Duffy, who comes as the last of the Duffy sisters through this program.

“The biggest thing is the size factor. When we were successful over the past few years, we had tremendous length on defense," said Head Coach Brandon Kandolin. "This year, we’re going to be missing some of that. So we’ll have to figure out how we want to approach the court on defense.”

 

2. Lennox

The Orioles have four starters back from an 18-4 season. Familiar names like Riley Peters, Madysen Vlastuin, Rianna Fillipi and Leslie Fillipi give Lennox some of the best experience in the state. Vlastuin has some of the best offensive skills in the state, regardless of class. The junior has already scored more than 1,000 career points and averaged 16.9 PPG and 8.4 RPG as a sophomore last year.

 

3. Winner

The Warriors are coming off of a 19-3 season with four starters back. Head Coach Larry Aaker likes their depth.

“We have a group of experienced returnees who are improved over last year and a group of younger girls who will contribute,” he said.

Morgan Hammerbeck, Gabriel Kocer and Maggie LaCompte combined for 37 points per game last year, and they’re all back to lead the team. Bella Swedlund, Madison Thieman and Abby Marts will all be key contributors as well.

 

4. Sioux Falls Christian

The Chargers return four starters, including Lexi Unruh, one of the top players in the class. Head Coach Andrea Begeman is ready for a promising season.

“We had a great season last year and hope to build on that with so many girls returning," she said. "We should be athletic and better defensively. We should also have a deep bench.”

Besides the sophomore Unruh, the Chargers bring back Kylee Van Egdom, Courtney Kellenberger and Lauren Tims to the lineup, along with Madison DeJong, Sam Fykstra, Caitlyn Pruis and Johanna Zylstra adding good minutes.

 

5. Miller

Four starters return to an 18-4 team for the Rustlers. Head Coach Aaron Zeller is excited.

“We are looking to build off the knowledge we gained from our post-season run last year," he said. "This year's team looks to be quick up the floor, but we also have size that will really help our inside game.”

Juniors Kadye Fernholz (17.1 PPG) and VonnaGail Schlecter (10.3 PPG) bring back a bulk of the team’s scoring. Last year, Fernholz hit an amazing 64% from the field. Seniors Elise Brooks and Erin Moncur are both key parts to the lineup as well.

 

Others

Aberdeen Roncalli

Derek Larson’s group has four starters back from a 21-4 team a year ago.

“We lost a couple of great basketball players to graduation and moving out of town, but we do have a good core coming back," said Coach Derek Larson. "We need to find some scoring to replace those two girls. We want to get up and down the floor with the athletes that we have.”

Jami Ewart, Megan Streier, Mariah Winegar and Jori Ewart are all back and starting this year.

Hamlin

Hamlin has had a lot of good teams in recent years, but they’ve all included Lexi Wadsworth. This year, the supporting cast is all back but with no Lexi in the middle. (She's now at Northern State.)

“We lost the career leader in scoring and rebounding in the history of Hamlin basketball, so we have some big shoes to fill," Head Coach Tim Koisti said. "However, I have a bunch of experienced and talented girls returning so we won't change a lot. We will keep playing great defense and take one game at a time.”

In fact, there are four starters back, including Brynn Alfson, who put up 12 PPG and 7.5 RPG last year.

Dell Rapids

Taylor Trohkimoinen takes over to coach the Quarriers this season.

“We are very excited for this season. Jeff Dvorak has been the head coach for many years at Dell Rapids and has built a great program with a lot of success,” said Trojkimoinen. “We have expectations of keeping that successful program going while implementing a new style of play. We're in a great conference and region, but we're looking to be a very strong contender in all of our games.”

There will be four very solid returning starters. Senior post Jayda Knuppe finished at 11 PPG and 5 RPG. Senior guard Emma Paul, who will be playing basketball for Dakota Wesleyan next year, finished last season with 10.5 PPG and 6.8 RPG). Senior point guard Ravyn Hoffman, who is also committed to play for Dakota Wesleyan, led the team in assists last year with 59. Junior guard Aspen Hansen averaged 7.1 PPG and led the team in steals with 36.

Vermillion

The Tanagers went 19-7 last year but lost four of their starters to graduation.

“We have good team speed and athleticism, which is nice to have," said Coach Jon Brooks. "We will need to be a great defensive team and throughout the year get kids comfortable on the offensive end to find scoring. By the end of the season, we hope to be playing well and make a post season run."

They’ll look to sophomore Lexi Plitzuweit as their only returning starter to take a step up this season. Kasey Herbster didn’t start last year but supplied 8.5 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game off the bench. Lexi Saunders and Rachel Brady both saw time last year and should make an impact this season.

Crow Creek

Shavonne Stepp and Crow Creek made a trip to the state tournament last year and have plenty to build on this year. Marveen Ross is back for her senior year and, along with Sarah Hunter, should provide a great backcourt. Freshmen Audrey Drapeau and Rozee Drapeau continue to show they can play at a high level and are back for the Lady Chieftains.

McCook Central/Montrose

The Fighting Cougars hope to continue their momentum despite graduating Morgan Koepsell, one of the better players in program history. Head Coach Doug Durfee has three starters back to build around.

“This season we return three starters and two other players who played a lot of varsity minutes last year," he said. "We will be looking to them for their leadership as there will be a lot of new faces on the court this year.”

Look for Morgan Erikson, McKenna Kranz and Jacy Pulse to command the backcourt, with Madisen Koepsell (6'0") and Abilgail Van Ruler (6'3") to be one of the taller frontcourts in the state.

Pine Ridge

Laura Big Crow guided the Thorpes to a 18-6 season a year ago, and they have some key players back to make another run. Samantha Richard is one of the top talents in the state.

West Central

The Trojans surprised a lot of people last season and finished 19-6 on the year. This year, Head Coach Joe Caffrey has just two starters back but likes his team’s makeup.

“We have a tough schedule where we will be challenged every game," he said. "We hope to improve our bench and depth as the season progresses, so we are ready for postseason play.”

Bailey Nester is a quick guard and a smart defender that can shoot. Megan Madsen was injured last year, but is a great playmaker. Kali Nelson, Rachel Eickman, Cheyanne Masterson, Cassidy Siemonsma and Rylee Haldeman round out a talented squad.

Redfield

Sophomore Addison Rozel leads a very experienced group back on the court.

“We bring back all five our starters from last year’s squad the advanced to the Round of 16 and lost to eventual state champion St. Thomas More," Coach Tommy Gregg said. "I feel like this is a very experienced bunch that is motivated to do well. We need to get off to a better start this year compared to last season. We should be exciting to watch and be very competitive with our schedule this year. We want to be playing our best in late February and early March.”

 

Girls B

1. Ethan

The Tom Young-led Ethan Rustlers continue to be one of the best teams in the state. Last year, they finished 4th at State, despite being one of the younger teams in the state. This year, all five starters return.

“We had a good year last year. However, we need to significantly improve our defense and perimeter shooting to stay in the mix this year,” said Tom Young.

Karly Gustafson, Cameryn Logan and Jessica Bartscher were the three leading scorers for the team last year and all have potential to put up a 20-point night. Maddie Miller and Mollie Miller will also return to the lineup. Look for playing time from sophomores Lexi Lingemann and Adaya Plastow, freshman Hannah Bartscher, senior Callie Hohn, and junior Erica Storm.

 

2. Warner

The Monarchs went 22-4 last year and have three top talents back this season. Laurie Rogers, Ashley Fischbach, Sydney Leidholt and Laura Ochsner headline a deep and experienced team.

Head Coach Stewart Bohle said, “With the experience that we have coming back and our athleticism, we are hoping to have a good year.”

Laurie Rogers is among the best basketball players in the state. She is headed to Northern State next year.

 

3. Castlewood

The Warriors won it all last season playing basically five players. Two of those starters return as sophomores this year – Darah DeKam and Alayna Benike – and led the team with 22 points in the championship game.

 

4. Tripp-Delmont/Armour

Marc Reiner has most of last year’s team back, which went 22-4 and finished 3rd at state. They’re led by Mattilynn Reiner at guard, who was an all-state selection that averaged 16 PPG, 9.6 RPG and 4.3 APG. She’s joined by Kianna Payer, Ashlee Gerber, Baylee Gerber and Alyssa Whitney in a solid starting rotation. They also have a loaded bench with juniors and sophomores ready to make an impact.

 

5. Avon

Avon managed 20 wins and a trip to the state tournament last year under Brad Poppe. This season, they’ll have to rebuild a little bit, but a good place to start is with senior Lauren Sees. She averaged 20 PPG last year.

 

Others

De Smet

The Bulldogs have been strong in recent years under Doug Osthus. Last year, they won 17 games and graduated just three seniors. Look for Kristen Poppen and Rynn Osthus to pick up that senior leadership.

Sully Buttes

The Chargers have been a staple at the State Tournament recently. Last year, Head Coach Mark Senftner guided them to a 23-3 record and third place at state. Look for Lauren Wittler, Brooklynn Bradford, Kendra Kleven and Angela Guthmiller to lead the way.

“We have a group of returning letter winners with a lot game experience, and a group of young girls that have played a lot of junior varsity basketball," Coach Senftner said. "We have a nice mix of inside players and perimeter players, and a number of these girls that will be versatile enough to make contributions from many  spots on the floor. Early in the season, working together and getting our young girls game experience is a big key for us. Becoming a cohesive group as the season progresses will be something that we will strive for. We will look to our experienced players for leadership on a daily basis.”

White River

Kristi Barnhart and the Lady Tigers have high hopes as they enter this season with five seniors on the roster. They went 11-13 a year ago, and hope to use young players like Nicole Yackley and Remedy Morrison to combine with the skilled upperclassmen to have a good year. 

Corsica-Stickney

Watch out for Corsica-Stickney, who went 18-4 last year and have their entire starting lineup back this season. Courtney Menning, Avery Broughton, Raven Barse, Alexis Tilton, and Rachel Gerlach are all fast and athletic shooters. And Menning is the only senior of this talented group. This is a team that could make some noise at the state level this year.

“We should have good depth this year with multiple girls being able to contribute,” said Head Coach Lorisa Broughton.

Irene-Wakonda

Last year, the Eagles went 20-3 and came within one game of going to state. This year, they have a goal to get even further.

Shannon Sokolowski leads a talented group of hard-working players. Malloy O’Malley, Ashley Emmick, and Nora O’Malley bring back a lot of talent and experience.

“We are grinders with work ethic. Secret will be to come together with chemistry and continuity.  We added to our depth this year with seven incoming freshmen replacing just two lost,” said Coach Stacy Huber. 

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