No matter the level, every basketball team hopes to be playing its best basketball when March arrives.
When it comes to Brandon Valley, that hope seems to be falling into place.
Both the boys and girls team from Brandon Valley enter this weekend’s SoDak 16 games with a huge amount of momentum.
The boys (14-6) have won nine of their last 10 games and are seeded No. 6 in the Class AA SoDak 16 tournament. They will host No. 11 Rapid City Stevens on Saturday night. The girls (15-5) have won nine of their last 12 and enter the SoDak 16 seeded No. 7 in Class AA. They host No. 11 Sioux Falls Roosevelt on Friday.
The boys have been cruising of late, and there’s little doubt head coach Brent Deckert is feeling good as the Lynx open post-season play.
“We’ve got some things cooking right now,” Deckert said. “Any way we look at this, we need to win four in a row, so we’re not screwing around right now.”
Brandon Valley’s only loss in their current streak was a 71-58 setback against pre-season No. 1 Roosevelt. Despite that setback, Deckert said the Lynx are good enough right now to make another run at a Class AA state title, something they did for the first time in 21 years in 2019.
Part of Brandon Valley’s success has been on the defensive side of the ball. Over the last 10 games when the Lynx have been on a tear, they’re giving up just 43.2 points per game in the nine wins. They gave up 71 to Roosevelt in the loss, the third-highest of the season for the Lynx.
“We didn’t play that well against Roosevelt, but Roosevelt can do that to a lot of teams,” Deckert said. “I really like how we’re defending on the perimeter right now. I think our bigs have been able to establish enough of a presence in most games. There’s so many teams that can just knock in shots even though you’re on them. You have to play with a lot of energy on the perimeter. That’s been exciting for us to see.”
Although a west river opponent, Brandon Valley has already had a look at Stevens this year. They opened the season in Rapid City with a 28-point win over the Raiders. The Lynx followed that up a night later with a 44-point win over Spearfish.
But in basketball terms, that was ages ago. Stevens entered that season-opener with just a couple of days of practice after it dealt with COVID-19 setbacks.
“We’ll see a completely different team this time around,” Deckert said. “They certainly weren’t as prepared as we were to start the season.”
If history is on Brandon Valley’s side, opening with Stevens may be just what the Lynx need. In their 2019 championship campaign, Brandon Valley defeated the Raiders in the opening round.
The Lynx enter the playoffs with Jackson Hilton leading the offensive charge, averaging 11.9 points per game. Payton Tietjen leads the Lynx at 6.4 rebounds per game, and Joe Kolbeck is averaging 2.7 assists per game.
‘We’re ready for playoff time’
Despite being the No. 7 seed in the SoDak 16, the Brandon Valley girls seem to be as ready as any Class AA school as the postseason begins.
If playing in close games is a resume builder for the playoffs, the Lynx are certainly ready. Brandon Valley played in seven games decided by five points or less, and they also had three overtime games.
“We’re ready for playoff time. We have five seniors, and they’re chomping at the bit to get to the playoffs,” head coach Mike Zerr said. “The goal is to play your best at the end of the year and hopefully we’re doing that.”
Zerr said he’s hoping the tight games could be an advantage for the Lynx. Brandon Valley went 4-3 in those seven games decided by five points or less, and were 2-1 in overtime games.
The Lynx will face No. 10 Sioux Falls Roosevelt in Friday’s SoDak 16 game. The two teams split a home-and-home schedule this season including Brandon Valley’s one overtime loss at Roosevelt on Jan. 16. The Lynx won by 14 at home on Feb. 13.
If Brandon Valley hopes to advance and get past Roosevelt, they’re going to have to beef up on the perimeter. The Rough Riders feature an athletic point guard in sophomore Cierra Watkins, and she’s got shooters on all sides to distribute.
Juniors Taliyah Hayes and Kaela Martinez can score in a hurry.
“It will be important to contain them in transition to make sure we find the shooters,” Zerr said. “They shoot a lot of 3’s which means long rebounds so we’re going to have to finish possessions with them as well.”
But it’s Brandon Valley’s experience – both with five seniors and being battle-tested all season – that have Zerr confident the Lynx can make a run.
“Sometimes goofy things happen in those games and sometimes you get interesting things that go on,” Zerr said of the SoDak 16. “But through our schedule this year I think it’s tested us. We’ve gotten a lot of good shots from some really good teams. Our kids have had a lot of success over the years, and they’d like to keep it that way.”
Sophomore Hilary Behrens leads the Lynx in scoring at 17.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.