A royal double: State championship and 30 wins

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     During the 1957 basketball season in South Dakota there were a trio of teams — Cresbard, Alexandria and Lake Norden — that all reached the exclusive 30-win plateau. They combined to amass an overall record of 101-6.

      Cresbard won the Class B state championship that year, after being runner-up the previous season. The Comets finished 38-1 in 1957. The 38 victories registered by Cresbard has been recognized as the national single-season record. Alexandria took third place in the tournament and went 30-1. Lake Norden was sixth and wound up 33-4.

     Winning at least 30 games in a season was rare. But several other teams throughout South Dakota history, in addition to Cresbard in 1957, have capped their seasons by achieving the unique double of claiming Class B state championships and reaching 30 victories. Among teams that have accomplished that feat were Arlington (31-0) in 1938, Emery (30-1) in 1950, Harrold (33-2) in 1951, Hayti (32-2) in 1954, Howard (31-4) in 1956, and Cheyenne Agency (31-3) in 1959.

Kernels, Gazelles lead in state championships

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     When it won its first state basketball championship trophy Mitchell High School was coached by A.A. “Joe” Quintal. The year was 1931 and South Dakota was in its 20th season of conducting state tournaments.

     That was the first of 16 state titles that have been earned by the Kernels, including nine under Coach Gary Munsen between 1984 and 2005. No school in South Dakota has won more championships than Mitchell. Among boys Sioux Falls Washington and Huron are next in line behind the Kernels. The Warriors and Tigers have each claimed 11 titles.

     Yankton is the leader in championships among girls programs. Coach Bob Winter guided the Gazelles to their first title during the inaugural girls season that was held in 1975. Yankton has won nine championships, followed among girls by Sioux Falls Roosevelt which has seven and Sioux Falls Washington and St. Thomas More with six each.

     A new addition on the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame website lists each boys and girls state championship team from the very first boys state tournament in 1912. Readers can also review the total number of state titles won by each school. Also included is a list of the teams throughout history that had 30-win seasons, led by Cresbard of 1957 at 38-1. Look on the right-hand side of this website and scroll down to ‘S.D. State Champions.’

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.

NCC shootout was longtime holiday tradition

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     The North Central Conference Holiday Tournament was a popular tradition that for 25 years put some of the country’s finest NCAA Division II basketball competition on display before crowds at the Sioux Falls Arena.

     Held annually between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the inaugural event was staged Dec. 28-30, 1965. A ticket good for all 12 games cost $5. Fans in attendance saw Sisseton product Jack Theeler (at right in USD photo) become the first of several Most Valuable Players who had prepped at South Dakota high schools.

     Theeler’s late-game basket, part of a 26-point performance, lifted South Dakota past South Dakota State 77-75 in the quarterfinals. The 6-foot-4 forward then had 27 points, including four free throws in the final seconds, as the Coyotes beat North Dakota State 68-65 in the semifinals. The losing Bison were coached by Doug Cowman, who had guided Canistota to the Class B state championship in 1958.

     North Dakota, rated No. 4 nationally, stopped USD in the finals 83-64. Phil Jackson was the Sioux star before moving on to NBA fame as a player and coach. But it was Theeler who led the tourney in scoring with 69 points and was MVP.

     Six other former South Dakota preps later earned MVP honors: John Thomas (Alexandria) of SDSU in 1967, Chuck Iverson (Vermillion) of USD in 1972, Ron Wiblemo (Mitchell) of SDSU in 1973, Steve Brown (Hamlin) of SDSU in 1977, Mark Tetzlaff (Hamlin) of SDSU in 1982 and Pat Freidel (Armour) of Augustana in 1988.

     The final tournament was held in 1989. SDSU finished as the leader with five championships. The Jackrabbits won the event in 1968, 1969, 1973, 1977 and 1979. Augustana followed with four titles, winning in 1974, 1980, 1984 and 1987. UND, NDSU and Nebraska-Omaha were next with three championships apiece.

Colleges feature former South Dakota preps

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     With the new basketball season tipping off in a time of uncertainty, which high schools in the state have produced the most players who are currently listed on varsity rosters of the colleges in South Dakota?

     Among the men, Sioux Falls O’Gorman leads with five. Dell Rapids, Harrisburg and Sioux Valley have three each. Knights in action are the Cartwright brothers, Matt at Augustana University and Jack at the University of Sioux Falls, as well as Akoi Akoi at Augustana, Luke Ronsiek at Mount Marty University and Cole Bruhn at Dakota State University.

     Sioux Falls Lincoln has six graduates on women’s teams: Morgan Hansen at the University of South Dakota, Izzy Van Veldhuizen at Augustana, Anna Brecht at USF, Lexi Hochstein at MMU and Sydnaya Dunn and Mya Wilson both at Dakota Wesleyan University. Following the Patriots with three each are Brandon Valley, Hamlin, Harrisburg and Lennox.

     There are 53 men who are former prep players in South Dakota and are now on in-state college rosters. They represent 34 different high schools across the state. Among the women, there are 70 players from 45 high schools.

Pandemic plagued S.D. and the world in 1918

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     A little more than 100 years ago the 1918 influenza pandemic took a tragic toll. Often referred to as the Spanish flu, its deadly impact was felt across the globe. In the United States alone an estimated 675,000 lives were lost.

     The South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame has published its 2020 Fall Newsletter. Featured is a comprehensive look at how our state coped during the 1918 pandemic and of South Dakota’s effort to maintain some degree of normalcy by forging ahead with prep basketball and the single-class state tournament.

     Also in the newsletter is a profile of a proud program that battled its way to the threshold of South Dakota basketball glory only to endure far more than a fair share of heartbreaks. Another story in the newsletter remembers an eminent personality whose venerable handprint was visible on our state tournaments for many years.

     The 13th edition of the biannual newsletter was mailed free on Nov. 11 to the more than 1,200 people on our mailing list. They reside in 41 states. All past editions can be accessed in the Newsletter Archives section of this website.

Names of Wood, Cobb still resonate in S.D.

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     During the early stages of high school athletics in South Dakota, two visionary coaches, one in East River and the other in West River, emerged as examples of how to build and sustain premier programs.

     Howard Wood was born in Canada and graduated from Potsdam Normal College (N.Y.). He arrived at Sioux Falls Washington in 1908. Wood coached the Warriors to four state basketball championships and had a career record of 430-141. In football his teams won 17 state titles and went 246-74-16. In track Wood guided SFW to 16 state championships.

     Euclid Cobb was born in Texas and earned a degree from Monmouth College (Ill.). He took over as coach at what would become Rapid City Central in 1920. Cobb’s team won a state basketball title in 1942. In football he had a career record of 144-43-13 while posting seven undefeated seasons: 1922, 1923, 1925, 1927, 1931, 1932 and 1943.

     Wood spent 39 years at Washington and died in 1949. A prominent Sioux Falls stadium, Howard Wood Field, was named in his memory. Cobb died in 1986. The school he served for 41 years gave him the ultimate compliment when in 1934 it used his surname to change its mascot from the Tigers. Since then Central’s teams have been the Cobblers.

Krogman, Young headline 2,000-point clubs

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     Don Jacobsen graduated from Lake Norden High School in 1957 after scoring 2,825 points for the Bluejays. That total reigned as the South Dakota boys career record for 50 years.

     Until Dec. 20, 2007. That night White River star Louie Krogman moved past Jacobsen in a Lakota Nation Invitational game at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.

     Krogman (pictured at left in a University of South Dakota photo during his college career) concluded his White River prep career in 2008 with 3,521 points. He leads the list of 44 documented boys who have surpassed the 2,000-point plateau in state history. Jill Young (pictured at right) of Mitchell Christian graduated in 2007 with 3,317 points and leads the 31 girls in the state who have reached 2,000. Young later played at South Dakota State University. Click on ‘Records’ at the top of this website to see both complete lists.

     The first player to reach 2,000 points in South Dakota was Stanton Uhlir in 1951. He notched 2,023 for Kadoka. Nine more boys players surpassed the milestone before the decade of the 1950s came to an end: Jacobsen, Milt Sorenson, Bob Swanhorst, LaMoine Torgerson, Jerry Wingen, Dale Hall, Terry Slattery, Cliff Albee and Phil Miedema. Among girls in the state Robin Anderson of Clear Lake was the first to surpass 2,000. She totaled 2,332 points before graduating in 1980.

40 years ago: loss in OT ended 64-game streak

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     The 1980 Freeman Classic produced one of the most iconic games in the history of high school basketball in South Dakota. A crowd of 7,100 had turned out at the Sioux Falls Arena to watch the Armour Packers attempt to extend their state-record boys winning streak in a marquee matchup against the highly regarded Beresford Watchdogs.

     The Packers of Coach Burnell Glanzer had won 64 consecutive games, in the process claiming Class B state championships in 1978 and 1979. They had broken the record of 61 straight wins set by Arlington in the 1930s.

     Armour was led by a pair of all-state players, 5-foot-11 senior Dan Freidel and 6-2 junior Jeff Tiefenthaler. The Packers were without senior standout Dennis Tiefenthaler, who was sidelined by an injury sustained in football.

     Beresford was built around 6-4 junior all-stater Keith Larson and was coached by Jim Sorenson.

     Through four quarters the teams battled on even terms. Then with only two seconds left in overtime Beresford senior Brian Rick hit a dramatic 20-foot shot to give the Watchdogs a 47-45 victory. The record streak was over.

Championships in ’20 create memories of SDIC

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     From the time it was first chartered in 1917 until it was disbanded in 2000, the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference for 83 years was an NAIA fixture and an important part of the sports landscape in our state.

     The recent 2020 basketball season was especially successful for some former SDIC members as four NCAA Division II regular-season titles were earned. Champions were the Black Hills State University men, the Northern State University men and the University of Sioux Falls men and women. The combined rosters of those teams included 11 players who prepped in South Dakota.

     Black Hills State, which compiled an overall record of 20-9, shared the Rocky Mountain Conference championship with Dixie State (Utah). Both were 17-5 in the league. Northern State won the North Division of the Northern Sun Conference. The Wolves fashioned records of 18-4 in the league and 26-6 overall. USF took both titles in the South Division of the Northern Sun. The Cougar men were 17-5 and 22-8 while the women had records of 17-5 and 26-6.