The Clark-Willow Lake Cyclones will be making their first-ever appearance in the Class A State Tournament, which gets under way Thursday at Sioux Falls Arena.
On their own, Clark has qualified for the state tournament 14 times, with the most recent being in 2006, when it reached the title game and finished as runner-up. Willow Lake was last in the state tournament in 1962.
The Cyclones, who have won their last 10 games, will enter the tournament as the No. 6 seed with a 16-6 record. They will face third-seeded Dakota Valley, which is 20-3, in the opening round at 8:45 p.m. today.
“Dakota Valley is a team we don’t know much about,” Clark-Willow Lake coach Jerome Nesheim said. “We know they love to get up and down the court, they dribble drive and look to shoot the 3-pointer. They are very good shooters.”
In the other opening-round matchups today, top-seeded St. Thomas More (21-2) will face No. 8 Tri-Valley (16-7) at 1 p.m., fourth-seeded Dell Rapids (19-4) will play No. 5 Winner (19-4) at 2:45 p.m., and second-seeded Chamberlain (20-3) will play No. 7 Aberdeen Roncalli (15-7) at 7 p.m.
Four team’s in this year’s tournament are returning from last year’s, including defending state champion St. Thomas More. Dell Rapids finished third a year ago, while Aberdeen Roncalli was fourth and Winner was seventh.
The trek to the state tournament got off to somewhat of a rocky start for the Cyclones as they went 6-6 during the first 12 games. A change in roles led to the success Clark-Willow Lake experienced during the rest of the season, according to Neisheim.
“We moved Skyler Flatten back to point guard and our offense seems to have a better flow to it,” he said.
Flatten, a three-year starter as junior, has led the way this season with averages of 23.8 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals per game. The 6-foot-5 guard/forward is a McDonald’s All-American nominee and is being recruited by NCAA Division I teams.
Seniors Sam Lindren and Garrett Schmidt are also three-year starters for the Cyclones.
“Sam plays the post and does a lot of the dirty work for us,” Nesheim said “Sam was the point guard for us his sophomore year and we moved him to the post the last two years and he has become a very good post player.
“Garrett usually pulls the assignment of the other team’s best player,” he said. “He does a lot of the little things we need done in order to win.”
Other stepping up to fill roles this season for Clark-Willow Lake, include senior Jeff McGraw, junior Lane Hovde, junior Torrey Holden, sophomore Mitch Prouty and 6-5 freshman Tyson Jenkins.
“All are capable of stepping up and having big games,” Nesheim said.
Despite being the No. 6 seed, Nesheim likes his team’s chances of having success in the tournament.
“I especially like our side of the bracket,” he said. “We are opposite of St. Thomas More and Dell Rapids. Anytime you get to the state tournament, it doesn’t matter what seed you are.”
The Cyclones will be totally focused on what they have to do to get past Dakota Valley heading into the tournament.
“We need to play well and shoot well,” Nesheim said. “If we can control the tempo of the game and keep them off the boards, we will have a great chance.
“We need to establish our post play early and often,” he said. “We have to contain their guards, they can’t be dribbling by us and finding the open shooter.”
A victory would move Clark-Willow Lake into an 8:45 p.m. matchup Friday against the winner of the Chamberlain and Aberdeen Roncalli game. A loss would put the Cyclones in the consolation semifinals, with a 2:45 p.m. game against the loser of that game.
The final round is Saturday, with the seventh-place game beginning at noon. The consolation championship will be played at 1:45 p.m., followed by the third-place game at 6 p.m. and the championship game at 8 p.m.
For the complete article see the 03-15-2012 issue.
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