Basketball

Chargers-Wolfpack series blossoming into an annual rivalry

A few years ago, the Sioux Falls Christian boys basketball team found itself in need of a game.

With his team on the rise in Class A, coach Mike Schouten decided to cross state lines and contact Western Christian, a mid-sized school located in nearby Hull, Iowa. Not only did the geography make sense for both sides, but as a perennial contender in Class 2A, the Wolfpack presented a formidable challenge for the ascending Chargers.

The series continued beyond that initial 2011 clash, which Western Christian won 65-41, and has blossomed into an annual rivalry game for the private schools.

“It’s been a good rivalry,” Schouten said. “It’s been a lot of fun to have this game with them and it’s been good for both teams to help make both teams better.”

The recent success of the programs helped boost series, but it is the familial ties between Sioux Falls and northwest Iowa that have fueled the fire, making it all the more exciting.

“It’s awesome,” Chargers guard Lincoln Unruh said. “Western’s good every year. We have a ton of parents who used to go to Western, so it’s kind of like homecoming for a lot of people. There’s so many relatives in the crowd.”

It was a packed house for this year’s installment, with top-ranked Class 2A Western Christian defeating SFC 79-68 to improve to 19-2 on the season.

The healthy presence of Western Christian fans helped create an electric atmosphere, with the student sections exchanging cheers and the rest of the crowd closely following the action.

The setting drew comparisons from both Unruh and Schouten to their bouts with in-state rival Madison.

“There’s a lot of intensity when we play them, but it’s fun,” said Schouten, whose third-ranked Chargers fell to 11-4. “It’s a great atmosphere and I’m hoping it will help prepare us for championship games down the road.”

Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at  @Brian_Haenchen .

Western Christian fans cheer on their team during a game against Sioux Falls Christian Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, at Sioux Falls Christian Schools in Sioux Falls.

Western Christian fans cheer on their team during a game against Sioux Falls Christian Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, at Sioux Falls Christian Schools in Sioux Falls.