By Rich Winter
After checking into the ‘media check-in’ Thursday, the first person I ran into was a (purple badge wearing) lady that noticed I was from Todd County.
“Are you from Todd County,” she asked.
“Yes ma’am,” was my reply.
‘The lady wearing the purple badge had walked the TC cheer team into the building just minutes earlier.
“The TC cheerleaders are impressive,” she told me.
The Falcons hadn’t performed one stunt, zero of their intricate stomp/dance routines and people were already buzzing about Rosie Iron Heart’s squad.
The Thursday game with McCook Central/Montrose turned out to be one of the best games of the tournament. MCM was so much taller than TC, and yet, Bob Boyd’s kids just attacked, and dove on the floor and shared the ball and knocked down big-threes, but came up just short in an 80-75 loss.
The next day Kelsie Herman just about set the nets on fire during TC’s game with Aberdeen Roncalli. TC was struggling from the field but Herman kept them in it, scoring 24, first-half points. Early in the second half, Herman hit the 1000th point of her TC career.
But, Aberdeen Roncalli was hanging around.
In a play that may epitomize what this TC team is all about, a loose ball near mid-court was pounced upon by Kelsie Herman. Herman wrestled the ball away from the Roncalli defender (who ended up on her face). Somehow, in the presence of lying on the court, face down, Herman reached with a free hand, while face down, pushing the ball ahead to Raven Cournoyer, who made the layup.
From there, Todd County rolled to the win.
So many of the TC girls had special tournaments. Samantha Yellow Eagle had some incredible minutes during the tournament.
Raven and Kelsie were doing their thing.
Lacee Halligan, Teciah Spotted Tail, Haylee Quick Bear and Shanelle Lone Dog were all terrific.
And Alanis Murray is the best girls’ 6th-man in South Dakota.
In the opener against MCM, Murray had 11 points off the bench. In the final game against STM, Murray clocked in with 13 points. At one point during that STM game, Murray had to be helped off the floor. Minutes later she was back on the floor. Her play late really helped TC break that game open.
The St. Thomas More game ended early and the Falcons had to wait around for a bit for the evening awards.
Here are coach Bob Boyd’s thoughts of the big-time performances at the 2019 South Dakota Class A girls state tournament.
“The hour between halftime and the end of the Winner game was fantastic. I felt pure happiness and pride in being a Falcon. When the cheerleaders won the Spirit of Six, we exploded with joy. We had a feeling they were going to win it, because no matter where we went, Sioux Falls Arena and Premiere Center staff were so complimentary about our cheerleaders and our team,” Bob Boyd said. “Then when Raven got the Spirit of Su I felt so proud of her. She deserved it. She wrote a heartfelt and genuine essay and I think that translated to the committee people who selected that award. Then I was blown away when both Raven and Kelsie made All-Tourney. Usually, no one gets two All-Tourney selections from a 5th place team. So I kinda prepped them for it. I told them that if only one of them gets it, the other needs to be extremely happy for her teammate. Kelsie was announced first and Raven was so happy for her. Then they announced Raven and we went ballistic as a team. I knew that they both deserved it, but I didn’t know if they would give us two. It proves our dynamic duo is the best backcourt in the State.”
In a lot of ways the 2019 Class A state tournaments, boys and girls held at the same site was a coming out party for Region 7A. All season long, we’ve been blessed to be able to watch the best Class A basketball, right here in our own backyard.
Can’t help but hearken back to the Region 7A girls semis when Matt Rama’s Lady Crusaders from Red Cloud had Winner down by 19 in the first half.
Winner, our neighbor to the east, went on to win the 2019 Class A state title. They ended up 24-0 and you know where their toughest games were....Region 7A.
A two-point win over Todd County, a one point win over Pine Ridge and that come from behind win over Red Cloud in late February.
“First of all, let’s give credit to the Winner Lady Warriors. They played an awesome tournament and I am really happy for Coach Aaker. Like me, he had a lot of non-believers that wanted him out and he proved them all wrong,” Boyd said. “He has his State title and I am extremely happy for him. He is an outstanding basketball coach. His girls were awesome in that championship game. They are an awesome reflection of the Big Dakota Conference and Region 7A.”
In the boys bracket, the semi-final game between Tea Area and Pine Ridge proved to be the championship game. Tea Area might go down as one of the greatest Class A teams in the history of South Dakota. The only loss Tea Area had this season with 78-64 vs. La Lumiere, IN, the No. 1 team in the United States of America.
Tea Area has a bunch of kids going on to play college sports (two of them D I) and the Thorpes of Pine Ridge were right there, losing 57-51.
On Saturday night, Pine Ridge senior Corey Brown received the Spirit of Su award and people from all over the state voiced their opinion of one of the brightest and most colorful stars of the A tournament.
Winner’s Jim Fritz had this to say about Corey Brown.
“This guy is truly one of a kind. I enjoyed watching him play the game for sure but watching him interact with the younger generation of kids from not only Pine Ridge, but also our local Winner kids, says a lot about him and how he was brought up. A true role model......Best of luck young man.”
Really cool, kinda side story about some of our Region 7A kids. After the Winner boys lost to Hot Springs and Pine Ridge beat Bon Homme in the SoDak 16, Winner sophomore Brady Fritz reached out to Corey Brown to buy some Pine Ridge Thorpe gear for the state tournament. The intention was the Winner kids were going to sit in the Pine Ridge student section and cheer for the Thorpes during the Tea Area game.
Well, the purple-badged people wouldn’t let that happen.
And so, on championship Saturday the Pine Ridge Thorpe boys tried to sit with the Winner student-section to cheer on the Lady Warriors.
Again, the purple-badge folks stepped in.
Undaunted, the Thorpes snuck back onto the main floor and Corey Brown made it to the Winner student section and led the kids in doing the wave.
And then the purple-badge folks stepped in, again!
Wonderful to see kids from local schools cheering each other on. Early Friday morning a bunch of Winner fans came to see Todd County play Aberdeen Roncalli. Later that day Winner and Todd County fans were rooting for Pine Ridge vs. Tea Area.
And then, all of Region 7A showed just how TUFF they are when Winner showed up and clobbered undefeated West Central, 63-50 in the finals.
Author’s note: When I first moved to Mission in February of 2005 the Todd County girls and then the St. Francis Indian School boys qualified for the state tournament. I was brand new, barely knew anyone (TC girls thought I was a spy from Bennett County) and I wasn’t sent to cover those tournaments.
Over the last fourteen years, I’ve seen and felt some really tough losses from our local teams. One of my bucket-list items was to go cover Todd County or St. Francis Indian at a state tournament.
So worth the wait!
So many special performances from kids I’ve seen grow up. So many region 7A fans from Winner and Pine Ridge to now follow and say hello to. It was wonderful to feel the state of South Dakota getting to know and see such wonderful people from our part of the state.