After 50 years De Smet’s reign still impresses

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     It has been 50 years since De Smet was putting the final touch on a basketball masterpiece. Fans in South Dakota still marvel at the proficiency and precision that was displayed by the Bulldogs during a three-season span ending in 1971.

     The championship game of the State Class B Tournament in 1969 ranks among the most memorable in history. Onida protected its undefeated record by using Tom Fox’s 33 points to hold off the Bulldogs 93-90. De Smet was led by Randy Jencks with 30 points. A capacity crowd at the Sioux Falls Arena witnessed a steady procession to the free throw line. Jencks converted 20 of 25 attempts as the Bulldogs went 36-for-51 on free throws. Onida shot 39, making 29.

     After that 22-4 season the Bulldogs of Coach Larry Luitjens had loftier goals. Returning to the championship game in 1970, De Smet capped a 25-1 record by defeating Stickney 76-39 for the first of two consecutive titles. Jencks was a senior in 1971 and missed much of the season with a knee injury. His return in the postseason helped spark De Smet to another championship. The Bulldogs beat Lennox 53-49 in the finals to go 25-2 and settle their three-year mark at 72-7.

     Testimony to De Smet’s talent and depth was the fact that the Bulldogs placing a different player on the all-state first team during each of those three seasons: Tom Hein in 1969, Jencks in 1970 and Terry Long in 1971. Luitjens, the subject of a new book authored by Bob Parsons, went on to coach at Custer and finish his career with a 748-305 record.

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