Girls basketball in ’73 was preparing for takeoff

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        Fifty years ago, during the autumn of 1973, girls basketball players at some of the high schools across South Dakota were getting their first opportunity to experience the thrill of competition against teams from other schools.

        A number of schools played a scattering of games that season. Others did not. But by the following year girls basketball had gained momentum. More schools were involved statewide and more players were participating.

        There was greater organization in 1974 and many schedules were expanded. Yankton, for example, played a total of 12 games. The Gazelles went 8-4. But there was no reward yet for girls teams at the conclusion of the season. In order to join the South Dakota boys in the excitement and fun of postseason play, the girls had to wait another year.

        The first two-class girls state tournaments were held in 1975. Yankton won the Class A championship. Jefferson swept to the championship in Class B. Fans appreciated the enthusiasm and the effort of the players. And they were impressed by the potential. Girls basketball was moving steadily forward in South Dakota and it has never looked back.

Fall newsletter depicts school’s 68-year wait

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        The wait, during the old two-class system of basketball, could be so long. That helped to make qualifying for the state tournament a special experience for communities across South Dakota.

        In 1939 the Langford team shown at right battled its way to the final eight in Class B. It would take another 68 years before the Lions were able to advance to their next state tournament.

        Read about that nearly seven-decade process in the 2023 Fall Newsletter which was published by the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame and mailed to its followers on Nov. 2. It is the 19th edition of the free biannual newsletter.

        Another story examines the skill of passing. What qualities make a uniquely talented distributer of the basketball? Serving as a sidebar to that story are comments from Hall of Fame readers who were asked to tell us about the best prep passers who they have seen.

        And learn in the newsletter about the heroism of an exceptional young man, an all-around athlete who helped his high school to a state basketball title in South Dakota. He went off to war as a soldier in the U.S. Army where he was commended for his bravery in combat and for his determination to survive and to escape from an enemy prison camp.

Progression of scoring record peaked at 72

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        The state single game scoring record was established on Feb. 10, 1953, and has endured for 70 years. Argonne High School was host to the Canova Eagles that night and the performance of Arrows star Delbert Gillam (right) was historic.

        Argonne was a small farming-based community which was located about six miles to the northwest of Howard in Miner County. It is now extinct. Gillam was a 6-foot-1 senior when he exploded for 72 points as the Arrows defeated Canova 126-81.

        Gillam averaged 25.9 points per game during that season. He was inducted into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame posthumously in 2022.

        Much has been written through the years about Gillam’s record setting effort against Canova, including a feature story about the game and about Gillam’s career that appeared in the 2016 Fall Newsletter that was published by the Hall of Fame.

        But what was the progression of the record in South Dakota prior to Gillam?

        The first documented 40-point-plus scoring effort occurred late during the 1939 season. Corona senior Harold Settje went for 47 points as the Midgets beat Summit. He converted 22 shots from the field and three free throws.

        Settje moved on to play at Luther College (Iowa). When the U.S. entered World War II he joined the Marine Corps and served in the Pacific, including the Battle of Guadalcanal. After the war Settje resumed playing basketball at Luther. He later had a career in education. The late Settje spent time as superintendent at both Veblen and Scotland.

        Darwin Headrick pushed the record to 55 points when he netted that total for Egan in a 1944 victory over White. Five years later Bob Hanson of Gayville scored 67 points as the Orioles downed Volin in 1949. The record fell again when Bob Wolff of Frederick notched 70 points in a 74-19 win over Stratford in 1952. And then came Gillam and 72.

The Hall of Fame Class of 2023

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        The South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame celebrated its Class of 2023 during the 13th annual induction banquet Saturday afternoon at the Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. Thirteen former standouts were honored and they bring total membership in the Hall of Fame to 198 of the greatest prep players ever to perform in South Dakota.

        Pictured above at the banquet, from left, front row, are Chad Boekelheide, Jeana (Hoffman) Krome, Paige Paulsen, Jenna (Hoffman) Kubesh and Scott Boekelheide. Back row, Jordan (Stapp) Proefrock, Louie Krogman, Brenda (Davis) Comstock, Dodie Bemis representing the late Harry Marske, Spencer Paulsen representing the late Derek Paulsen, Dan Freidel and Eric Lappe. Also inducted was the late Arnold Johnson. (John Simko Photo)

        Plaques commemorating members of the Class of 2023 will be displayed in the Hall of Fame area which is located on the main floor of the Sanford Pentagon. Bios profiling all Hall of Fame members can be found on this website.

        Members of the selection committee will meet soon to begin the important process of evaluating the nominations of potential inductees. Those who are selected for induction in the Class of 2024 will be announced in May. To see a list of the selection criteria, and to download an official nomination form, click on Nomination Form on this website.

Plan to join us during Hall of Fame Weekend

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        Membership in the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame will expand to 198 during a ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 26. The 13th annual induction banquet will be at the Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. Tickets cost $35. Children 10 and younger are $10.

        To be inducted are Chad Boekelheide, Scott Boekelheide, Brenda (Davis) Comstock, Dan Freidel, Louie Krogman, Jeana (Hoffman) Krome, Jenna (Hoffman) Kubesh, Eric Lappe, Paige Paulsen and Jordan (Stapp) Proefrock. Inducted posthumously will be Arnold Johnson, Harry Marske and Derek Paulsen. Recognized as a Team of Excellence during the banquet will be the Miller Rustlers of 1972 who were coached by Bob Dockter and finished 24-0.

        Tickets include a souvenir booklet (shown at right) as well as the induction program and a catered meal. Order via the PayPal option on the lower right-hand portion of this website or by sending a check to SDBBHOF, 2210 W. Pentagon Place, Sioux Falls, SD 57107. All tickets will be held for pickup at the Will-Call Table at the banquet.

        Memorabilia exhibits charting the careers of members of the Class of 2023 will be on display. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and Hall of Fame apparel and mementos will be available for purchase. Raffle tickets will be sold with the winner receiving one men’s or women’s Hall of Fame ring valued at $300. The induction program begins at 1 p.m. with the meal to follow. When arriving please use the east parking lot and entrance. Tickets will also be available at the door for $40 and $15.

        Another highlight of Hall of Fame Weekend is an informal reception for the inductees from 4-6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25, at the Ramkota. The reception is free and dress is casual. Refreshments will be provided. Members of the Class of 2023 will be present and the public is encouraged to attend. Also on hand will be many Hall of Fame members inducted during previous years. Hall of Fame tours at the Sanford Pentagon will be available per request from 1-4 p.m. For more information contact SDBBHOF executive assistant Mary Pennington at or 970-946-2605.

Hall of Fame salutes the ’72 Miller Rustlers

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        Fans who were fortunate to be in attendance at the State Class A Tournament in 1972 understood that they were watching a special team when Miller High School was on the court. The Rustlers put on a dazzling three-game display of basketball that still resonates today in the memories of those who were on hand at the Sioux Falls Arena.

        With an enrollment of 375 students Miller was the smallest of the 32 schools in Class A. The Rustlers were coached by Bob Dockter and had the ability to demoralize opponents with a tireless full-court press and quick-strike fast break.

        Kim Templeton, Rick Nissen and Jeff Wilber led the Rustlers as they defeated Sioux Falls Washington, Rapid City Stevens and Yankton. That settled Miller’s record at 24-0. In recognition of their memorable season the 1972 Rustlers are being recognized by the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame as its Team of Excellence for 2023.

        The Rustlers will be honored during the 13th annual Hall of Fame induction banquet which will be held on Aug. 26 at the Ramkota Hotel in northwest Sioux Falls. Miller team members pictured with the kneeling Dockter in the submitted photo above were, from left, manager Chuck Peterson, Steve Henning, Tim Herman, Wilber, John Carr, Steve DeGeest, Gary Recek, Mike Alley, Kerm Peterson, Nissen, Mike Losey, Dan Gerdes, Templeton and manager Terry Augspurger.

Begeman to lead Hall of Fame into future

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        Members of the board of directors of the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame met at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls on June 14 and unanimously voted to elect Mike Begeman (right) to serve as the new president of the organization.

        Begeman is a native of Parker and a graduate of Augustana University. He replaces Bob Swanhorst, who had been president of the Hall of Fame since Jan. 24, 2014.

        Swanhorst informed the board of directors several months ago of his intention to step down as president in June. He was asked to remain a member of the board.

        “Bob has provided exemplary leadership during the past 10 years and we are grateful for his many contributions. We are very pleased that he has agreed to remain on our board of directors,” says Hall of Fame executive director Dave Wagner.

        “We are extremely confident that under Mike’s leadership the Hall of Fame is well positioned to continue its progress and to fulfill its mission far into the future.”

        Begeman has been a member of the board of directors for the past nine years. He spent time as the organization’s treasurer and then later became vice president. As president Begeman will preside over an evolving board of directors that is responsible for formulating policy and for making decisions that involve the direction of the Hall of Fame.

        Forty-two different people have served on the board at various times. Currently there are 15 members.

Legendary coach, winner of 748 games, has died

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        South Dakota’s all-time winningest boys basketball coach, Larry Luitjens, has died at the age of 81. Luitjens was living in Sioux Falls at the time of his death on June 10.

        Luitjens’ teams took the court in 1,053 games during the nearly 50 years he spent as a head coach. They won 71 percent of those games, achieving a record of 748-305.

        During his career Luitjens guided seven teams to state championships. De Smet won Class B titles in 1970 and 1971 under Luitjens. Later at Custer he led the Wildcats to Class A championships in the seasons of 1990, 1992, 1993, 1998 and 2002.

        The National Federation of State High School Associations began its National High School Hall of Fame for athletics in 1982. Luitjens was inducted in 2012.

        Luitjens graduated from Britton in 1960. He played four seasons under Coach Bob Wachs at Northern State University. Luitjens helped the Wolves win two South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference co-championships. Northern and Dakota Wesleyan shared the title in 1963 while the Wolves and Black Hills State were co-champions in 1965.

Class of 2023 features 13 of state’s former greats

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        Thirteen former players who all had superlative careers in the state will be inducted into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame during the 13th annual banquet to be held on the afternoon of Aug. 26 at the Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls.

        South Dakota’s career scoring leader, Louie Krogman (left) of White River, and three pairs of siblings are among the standouts who comprise the Class of 2023. Chad and Scott Boekelheide excelled while at Northwestern, Jeana (Hoffman) Krome and Jenna (Hoffman) Kubesh were stalwarts for Mitchell, and Paige and the late Derek Paulsen starred at Custer.

        Derek Paulsen and his girlfriend, Custer cheerleader Eva Wahlstrom, are in the photo at right which was taken at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. The Wildcats had just won the 1997 Lakota Nation Invitational and Derek was named tourney MVP. Derek and Eva lost their lives in a tragic car accident on July 30, 1999.

        The Hall of Fame will recognize Miller of 1972 as a Team of Excellence. The undefeated Rustlers will be honored during the banquet. Miller won the Class A state championship under Coach Bob Dockter and achieved a 24-0 record.

        Ticket and banquet information will be announced soon on this website. Following is a look at the Class of 2023:

        CHAD BOEKELHEIDE, Northville (Northwestern 1991): The Wildcats won Class B state titles in 1989 and 1991 with the Boekelheide twins manning the backcourt. Chad averaged 27 points per game as a senior and had a career total of 1,633. The Boekelheides played at Northern State on teams that compiled a 106-28 overall record from 1992-95.

        SCOTT BOEKELHEIDE, Northville (Northwestern 1991): A 25-0 season in 1991 settled Northwestern’s four-year record at 93-10. Scott averaged 19 points per game as a senior. He had 1,466 career points and a school record 178 assists. The Boekelheides helped Northern take second in the NAIA National Tournament in both 1993 and 1994.

        BRENDA (DAVIS) COMSTOCK, Louisville, Colo. (Tri-Valley 2000): During her career Comstock led the Mustangs to a record of 76-18. She averaged 20 points per game as a senior and totaled 1,648 career points. Comstock scored 1,688 points at South Dakota State and helped the Jackrabbits win the NCAA Division II national championship in 2003.

        DAN FREIDEL, New London, Minn. (Armour 1980): The Packers won 64 consecutive games, and went 97-3 overall, during Freidel’s career. Armour won Class B state titles in 1978 and 1979. Freidel averaged 23 points per game as a senior, shooting 58 percent, and was a lock-down defender. He was a basketball and football standout at Augustana.

        ARNOLD JOHNSON (Brookings 1953): The late Johnson was a mainstay on the Brookings team that produced a 21-1 record and won the Class A state championship in 1952. The following season the Bobcats took fifth place. Johnson was chosen to the all-tourney team both years. He competed in basketball and football at South Dakota State.

        LOUIE KROGMAN, White River (White River 2008): In amassing 3,521 points, Krogman capped his record-breaking prep career by averaging 33 points per game as a senior. The Tigers won the Class B state title that season. Krogman was Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year. He scored 1,644 points at the University of South Dakota.

        JEANA (HOFFMAN) KROME, Sioux Falls (Mitchell 2004): Krome played in six Class AA state tournaments with the Kernels, winning the championship in 2003. She was Gatorade Player of the Year in 2004 when she averaged 21 points per game. Krome’s career total was 1,565 points. She was an NCAA Division II All-American for USD in 2008.

        JENNA (HOFFMAN) KUBESH, Canistota (Mitchell 2004): Gatorade Player of the Year in 2003, Kubesh helped Mitchell win four ESD Conference titles. She averaged 16 points per game as a senior with a career total of 1,497 points. Kubesh and her twin sister Krome led USD to second in the NCAA Division II National Tournament in 2008.

        ERIC LAPPE, Spearfish (Harrold 1992): In one of the most memorable state championship games in history, Lappe scored 40 points as the Cardinals rallied late to down Warner 84-79 in 1992. He averaged 29 points per game that season and was chosen co-Mr. Basketball. Lappe had 2,055 career points. He played collegiately at Mount Marty.

        HARRY MARSKE (Andover 1955): The late Marske was a dominating force at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds. He scored 914 points as a senior, averaging 35 per game. His high game was 51. Marske was all-South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference four years at Northern where he totaled 1,676 points. He was selected by Detroit in the NBA draft.

        DEREK PAULSEN (Custer 1999): The late Paulsen had completed his junior year at Custer and was being recruited by several Power Five Conference schools when he lost his life at age 17. He led the Wildcats to the Class A state title as a sophomore. Custer then finished third in 1999 when Paulsen was a junior and averaged 18 points and seven assists.

        PAIGE PAULSEN, Williamston, Mich. (Custer 2003): After ending his career with 1,790 points, Paulsen was named Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year. Custer won the Class A state title when he was a junior. The Wildcats were second in 2003 when Paulsen averaged 25 points per game. He played at Northern Illinois and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

        JORDAN (STAPP) PROEFROCK, Sturgis (Newell 2004): A rare five time Class A all-stater, Proefrock scored 2,815 career points. She netted 24 points per game as an eighth-grader and in the next three season averaged 25, 29 and 29. Then as a senior she scored 30 points per game as Newell went 18-3. Proefrock played at Jacksonville State (Ala.).

Return to the 1950’s with our spring newsletter

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        During stages of the two-class era of South Dakota basketball there were between 250 and 300 schools residing in Class B. All had the same goal of being one of the eight teams still standing after the region tournaments were completed. It was a challenge that was especially daunting for the smallest schools in the state.

        Legendary coach Q.C. Miles and all-stater LaMoine Torgerson (right) represented a high school in 1958 that had only 39 total students. There were just 13 boys in the top three grades. So when Forestburg overcame the long odds and qualified for the state tournament for the first time in school history it gave the entire town, with a population of 124, reason to celebrate.

        Read about the excitement generated by a first-ever trip to the “B” in the 2023 Spring Newsletter which was mailed on May 3 by the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame. It is the 18th edition of our biannual free newsletter.

        Another story relives one of the most notable games in girls basketball history in the state. It matched two elite powers in an unforgettable 1980 showdown that brought increased attention and admiration to the girls sport. Also in the newsletter is a feature story about a major upset in the northeast that shocked South Dakota basketball fans from border to border in 1949.