Top Story Of 2019 So Far

O’Gorman’s Luke Ronsiek, 4, goes up for a shot in the lane during the semifinals of the South Dakota State Class AA Boys’ Basketball Tournament. The shot was ruled to have beaten the buzzer, giving O’Gorman a 43-42 victory over Yankton, denying the Bucks a chance to repeat as state champions. The Press & Dakotan’s Jeremy Hoeck and James D. Cimburek agreed that this was the biggest area sports story so far in 2019.

With a quiet summer weekend — the last quiet weekend of the summer, from our standpoint — upon us, we thought we would take a look back at the first half of 2019 and share some of our thoughts on it.

We each put together our lists separately, then James put them together into one piece. We should have done it together in a podcast format, but we’re still working our way up to that.

Here goes. As always, feel free to give us your feedback on social media, at @YanktonSports, @jhoeck (Jeremy) or @jcimburek (James):

Top Five Area Sports Stories

At the end of December we’ll sit down together and put together our top 10 stories for the year. Since the year is only half-over, we felt that five was a good number for this exercise.

1. The Shot Heard ‘Round The State

Jeremy: It felt like something was taken away.

That’s the way I’ve thought about what happened to the Yankton High School boys’ basketball team at the Class AA State Tournament back in March.

Victims of a missed call in the semifinal showdown with Sioux Falls O’Gorman, the Bucks were forced to swallow a bitter pill: The Knights had won the game on a buzzer-beating shot that was proven to come after the buzzer.

That game proved to be the spark for the state implementing video replay in just such a situation, but it was no consolation for the Bucks. Sure, there were opportunities to avoid just that ending, but nonetheless, it was a play that will live on in Yankton lore for decades.

James: For me, it was a tough choice between the top two stories. I was in Rapid City and have a great shot of the “winning” shot (with the backboard lit up) that denied Yankton a chance to defend its Class AA boys’ basketball title.

I call it “The Shot Heard ‘Round The State,” as it seemed all anyone could talk about for the weeks after that game. It resulted in a change in the SDHSAA rules, allowing replay in certain situations during state basketball tournaments. (S.D. football also added replay this year.)

2. Mount Marty Adds Football

James: At the same time, I know how crazy it is to be discussing football at Mount Marty. As a student there 25 years ago, football at MMC was a quickly-dismissed thought. Over the years, I’ve been asked my opinion of MMC adding football, and I had two responses, “I’d rather see them put more investment into their current programs first” and “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

MMC has put more into its other sports, making it possible to “see” MMC adding football.

Jeremy: No longer will Mount Marty College be the only school in the Great Plains Athletic Conference without football.

An April announcement reverberated around town and across the region: Yankton — a city known for its football passion — will once again have its own college football team.

By the fall of 2021, the Lancers will be playing home football games at Crane-Youngworth Field, and the hope is that the fervor for high school football will translate over to the college ranks.

Jeremy’s Final 3 — 3. Wynot Girls Win ... Again; 4. USD Women Ranked, Reach NCAAs; 5. Viborg-Hurley Boys Win Track Title

3: It will be hard to ever top what the Wynot (Nebraska) girls’ basketball program has done this decade.

In the past 10 years, the Blue Devils have reached the Class D2 championship game of the Nebraska State Tournament. Think about that — they’ve not just qualified for state, but advanced to the finals.

And in six of those years, coach Steve Wieseler’s teams have won the title. Number six came back in early March, when the seventh-seeded Blue Devils capped off an improbable run to the crown.

Wynot has won the title in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019, and has finished second in 2010, 2015 and 2017.

4: The 2018-19 season proved to be a historic one for the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team.

The Coyotes (28-6), under head coach Dawn Plitzuweit, entered the top-25 poll for the first time in mid-February and later earned an at-large invitation to the NCAA Division I Tournament for the first time in school history.

Although USD lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, it set the standard for future seasons — there’s now a possible path to the ‘big dance’ that doesn’t include winning the Summit League Tournament title.

5: A year ago, the Viborg-Hurley boys’ track team finished second at the Class B state meet with 42 points — four team points behind Freeman.

This year, however, Viborg-Hurley nearly doubled that output to capture the Class B team championship with 76 points.

It was a study in depth for the Cougars. They put two sprinters in the finals of the 100 and 200, and two athletes in the finals of the triple jump. Viborg-Hurley then went out and won the 400 relay, 800 relay and 1600 relay.

James’ Final 3 —3. USD Women Earn At-Large Bid To NCAA ; 4. MMC Men’s Basketball Coaching Change; 5. Football Finals Moved From Dome

Just months after the University of South Dakota volleyball program earned its first NCAA Tournament bid, the USD women’s basketball team one-upped them with its first-ever at-large berth into the tournament. Though the trip to Starkville, Mississippi, did not turn out the way they’d hoped — a 79-66 loss to Clemson — it was a huge step forward for a program that returns a ton of talent this winter.

When Cody Schilling announced his departure — something we knew would come as his wife took jobs further and further from South Dakota — we hoped MMC would bring in another quality, energetic coach to fill his shoes.

We were puzzled by Chris Kassin’s brief acceptance of the job — not because we doubted his credentials as a coach, but if he, or anyone else, could handle the workload of both athletic director and head coach. They then handed the reins to Todd Lorenzen, a young coach with a national championship on his resume.

The one-year move of the South Dakota high school football finals to Brookings for one year, due to the construction project on the DakotaDome, was also puzzling. In conversations with University of South Dakota officials, attendance for the football finals has only exceeded this year’s available seating for three games in 10 years.

Also on my “short list” were the Lancer men’s track and field team having their best indoor and outdoor finishes in the Great Plains Athletic Conference meets, the Gazelles’ runner-up finish at state golf, the Bucks’ sixth place finish in state tennis, the Scotland amateurs ending their 109-game South Central League losing streak and the Mount Marty College fieldhouse project moving forward.

Prep Male Athlete of the Year

James: Going into the second half of the year, my early favorite for Athlete of the Year would have to be Matthew Mors. He was the South Dakota Gatorade Player of the Year for basketball, was a state runner-up in the high jump in track and field, and is having a pretty good summer on the baseball diamond.

Since Mors does not have a fall sport, a contender to knock Mors out of that top spot might be an even younger Buck, Owen Warren. The Class A state wrestling champ at 195 pounds as a freshman, he could potentially be a big factor for the Bucks’ football team this fall in his second season on the roster. He also had a decent spring, helping the Bucks’ medley relay team bring home a medal.

Jeremy: The likely favorite right now, Yankton’s junior-to-be Matthew Mors became the boys’ basketball program’s all-time leading scorer last season and guided the Bucks back to the state tournament.

Mors was also a state meet qualifier in track and is also a member of Yankton’s Post 12 American Legion baseball team. He is also in the midst of another breakout summer on the AAU basketball scene, and has garnered the attention of many more Division I college coaches.

Jeremy’s Darkhorse: Cooper Cornemann — Also a starter on Yankton’s basketball team, Cornemann is a name to watch out for on the football field this fall for the Bucks.

He was the backup quarterback last season to Ethan Wishon, who shattered many of the school’s offensive records. Cornemann is now the likely candidate to take over the reins in 2019, and with head coach Brady Muth’s up-tempo offense, Cornemann (who will be a senior) could make some serious noise as a running threat at quarterback.

Prep Female Athlete of the Year

Jeremy: After a strong state track meet that saw her finish second in two events, third in a relay and fifth in another individual event, Yankton’s Jaiden Boomsma could be in for an even better finish to 2019.

The senior-to-be is also an all-state selection in soccer, and will lead a Gazelles squad this fall that will likely be the favorite to capture the Class AA state soccer championship in 2019. Yankton reached the semifinals last fall and did not graduate a single player from that group.

Jeremy’s Darkhorse: Maddy Fairley — Maddy Fairley, the standout distance runner from Gayville-Volin, isn’t exactly flying under the radar, but she could certainly make some serious noise this fall.

As a freshman, Fairley finished third in the State B girls’ cross country meet and then went on to the 3200-meter run at the state track meet.

The incoming sophomore will once again be in the conversation for top distance runner in Class B.

James: This one’s a little tougher, as there aren’t a lot of clear-cut favorites. Lauren Sees of Avon had a great basketball season and a solid track and field season. Madison Wuebben of Yankton had a solid basketball season and was a surprise medalwinner at the state track and field meet. At this point, I’d lean toward Sees.

This fall, though, Yankton’s Jaiden Boomsma, the 2018 Athlete of the Year, could blow past them both. Coming off a great track season, she will enter the fall as the Gazelles’ all-time leading scorer on the soccer pitch, and will try to help the Gazelles defend their Eastern South Dakota Conference title and earn a first-ever state finals berth.

Favorite Game/Moment

Jeremy: On a Sunday afternoon in small-town Vermillion, two of the country’s top mid-major women’s basketball teams played a classic in their long-standing rivalry.

In the end, South Dakota beat South Dakota State 105-98 in two overtimes in a game that was tense and nail-biting from the opening tip.

It was the first time in seven seasons that the Coyotes and Jackrabbits played into overtime and the first time in 28 years that their meetings reached double overtime.

James: Even though this game completely messed up my schedule for that day, I’d have to say the State-U women’s basketball matchup on Jan. 6 at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.

It was a double-overtime knock-down, drag-out fight that USD won 105-98. USD’s Ciara Duffy scored her 1,000th career point among her 28 in that game. SDSU’s Macy Miller did plenty of Macy Miller things on her way to 31 points.

The “bad” part about that game was it drew so much energy, the men’s game was a mere afterthought, feeling that way both on and off the court.

Favorite Photo

James: This might have been the hardest one. When I searched for my name and “image,” it came back with 1,671 photos. Some were file shots that went with all-conference/all-state/preview stories, but there were a lot of photos to go through.

The one that made the biggest impact, in my opinion, was the “Shot Heard ‘Round The State,” mentioned earlier in this column. It would, though, be hard to call it a “favorite.”

My favorite Buck basketball photo came during the Bucks’ first meeting with Huron, a Matthew Mors slam in front of the student section, taken from the other side of the gym. You can see the students reacting to the powerful play.

My favorite reaction shot came during the aforementioned State-U women’s game, with the Coyote bench — and a lot of the 6,000-plus fans in attendance — reacting to a basket.

My favorite photo, though, would have to be from earlier this summer: little Riggs Mueller, age 1, winding up to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at the tournament named after his late father, Kyle Mueller. (I also had a shot of Riggs with his two big brothers, standing on the mound.) They may not have understood why they were there, but they were on a diamond having fun, just like their dad did all those years.

Jeremy: JVC boys win Class B golf title

Coach dumps water on Austin Boomsma’s head

Thing(s) You’re Looking Forward To Most In The Second Half Of 2019

James: One thing I am looking forward to is the resumption of the Yankton-Vermillion football game. The teams have not played since 1991, the fall before I started at the paper. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Yankton and Vermillion were each powers in their respective classes.

I am also excited for the Gazelles soccer season. Yankton returns its entire roster from an ESD champion and a state semifinal team, and could become Yankton’s first “sanctioned” soccer state champions. (The Bucks won two before Yankton joined SDHSAA soccer.)

Jeremy: Who Emerges For Bucks Football?

Classify this under ‘curious.’

I’m curious to find out who emerges as offensive threats for the Yankton High School football team this fall. A year ago, the Bucks set many offensive records thanks to guys like Ethan Wishon, Rex Ryken, Michael Drotzmann, Caid Koletzky and Miles Carda, but they were all seniors.

So, who steps up this season?

With long road trips to Pierre, Sturgis and Douglas during the regular season this fall, the Bucks will certainly need leadership to set the tone, and I’ll be curious to see who embraces those roles.

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