RAPID CITY — It’s Semifinal Ssss-Friday here in Rapid City. But before we get to previewing today’s area games, here are some thoughts and observations from Thursday’s quarterfinal round.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Class AA state tournaments
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For as thrilling as the end of that Lincoln-Huron game was (the Tigers were basically left for dead in the final seconds of regulation), Rapid City Stevens vs. Pierre over at the Ice Arena out did it.
For as thrilling as the end to Lincoln-Huron was, I don’t think anyone would argue that Pierre-Rapid City Stevens outdid it.
Here’s the buzzer-beating shot from the Govs’ Peyton Zabel that forced overtime.
SDPB Sports (@SDPBSports) March 17, 2017
He finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds to help Pierre win 76-75 in double overtime.
The Governors face an Aberdeen Central team which upset No. 2 Brookings.
Very few people expected the Harrisburg boys to still be playing at this point of the year.
But they caught fire in February and sustained that momentum through the qualifying rounds to reach their first-ever Class AA state tournament.
“This team is really loose, so as a coach you try to let them have their own identity, but you also have to try and keep them focused on the challenge,” coach Scott Langerock said. “This being their first state tournament, you’re worried if they’re just happy to be here or do they really think that they can compete?”
This wasn’t a group that was just happy to be there. They hung with the top-seeded Knights throughout the first half and even pieced together a couple of pushes in the second half before O’Gorman managed to start pulling away.
“Our guys really believe they can win every time they step on the floor,” Langerock said. “That’s an awesome feeling for a coach when your guys believe in themselves. I was really proud of that whole mentality coming in and how they approached the game.”
Had the Rough Riders completed the comeback against O’Gorman, there likely would have been two main storylines: The performances from seniors Tahia Mitzel and Peyton Stolle, and the job Roosevelt did defensively against Knights center Sebastian Akoi.
The 6-foot-3 center was limited to just six points on 2 of 13 shooting. She seldom had a clear path to the basket, with the Riders limiting her to odd-angled shots along the baseline.
They did a tremendous job limiting her on the offensive end of the floor, but she had a major impact on the game defensively.
“We really were trying to attack the rim and get Akoi in foul trouble, which we did early,” coach David Maxwell explained after the game. “But then she blocked a couple shots. We still looked to attack, but then we had a little different mindset going at her. We started fading away from the rim instead of trying to go at her body and finish plays.”
From the O’Gorman perspective, coach Kent Kolsrud said he gave his girls a few hours to enjoy the win before turning their attention to…
Peyton Burckhard might have had the best individual performance of the day, going for 38 points on 15 of 24 (63 percent) shooting in a 51-43 win.
She basically single-handedly beat the No. 3 Lynx, and now it’s O’Gorman’s turn to try and corral her.
“You’re certainly not going to shut her down,” Kolsrud said. “We just have to try to keep her in check to some degree and make her work for her points. We have tremendous respect for her — we’ve played against her in the last two state tournaments, as well. It’s going to be a battle.”
Kolsrud noted that Brandon Valley attempted to play man-to-man against her for a few stretches, but that’s a difficult task given her versatility.
“I think she’s expanded her game a little bit. She can hit that outside jumper, she puts it on the floor pretty decent and she’s obviously a handful in the post,” he explained. “Burckhard is just a really good player. We can’t let her go off like she did last night and have any chance to win today.”
One thing that could work in the Knights’ favor is their physicality, especially inside. That was what helped them knock off Roosevelt in districts and that could be the key to containing Burckhard tonight.
O’GORMAN-LINCOLN: ROUND II
It will be No. 1 O’Gorman vs. No. 5 Lincoln for a spot in the AA boys championship game tonight.
The Knights are the favorite in the boys bracket, but the two-time defending champ Patriots have developed a knack for finding ways to win this time of year as was evidenced last night against Huron.
This will be the third meeting between the two this season, so there’s plenty of familiarity between the two. Here’s what both sides had to say about tonight’s matchup.
O’Gorman coach Derek Robey: “Lincoln’s Lincoln. They play good this time of year. It’s certainly going to be a tough matchup. We look forward to the challenge, but all their guys, you look at them, they always play well in March. We’ve always had some battles with Lincoln. We look forward to the challenge. It should be a barn-burner.”
On defending Gatluak: “Obviously, we have some guys with length, so that should help. But he’s been on a roll this month.”
Lincoln coach Jeff Halseth: “We don’t match up very well with them. The first time we played them, we played them within four points. The second time we played them, they took care of us pretty good. The guys are fired up. They know they’re playing pretty good basketball right now. We know them just as well as they probably know themselves.
On defending Cartwright: “We just get somebody in his face, try to contest him and hope he’s not making them. That’s about all you can do against a guy like him. They got JP Costello and (Joey) Messler playing real well right now, they got some guys coming off the bench. They’re a tough draw, but at least we have a chance at them.”
O’Gorman forward JP Costello: “They’re really good in transition. That’s probably their forte, just really good at taking smart shots in transition and getting layups in transition. I would say that’s what I’m most impressed by with them.”
Lincoln forward Diang Gatluak: “O’Gorman’s a really good team. Cartwright is a really good player. They beat us twice during the regular season, so we just want to come out, play hard, play defense and get a lot of rebounds.”
On the first meeting: “That four-point loss that we had, that shows that we can really beat them, because it was only four points. We did a lot of things better (that game). We played with a lot of energy. Sometimes we lack focus and energy.”
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen .