Full Court Press: 10 high school hoops teams making a turnaround in 2024

Jan. 24—MITCHELL — Nearly every high school basketball team in the South Dakota is halfway through its regular season and some upstart programs have come to the forefront.

In this week's Full Court Press, here's a quick look at five notable turnaround seasons in both boys and girls basketball this season. This is a focus on Class A and Class B and a spotlight on teams that bounced back from struggling seasons a year ago or are near the top of the standings this season. (We'll take a look at Class AA's postseason outlook in an upcoming edition of the Full Court Press.)

Record this year: 11-2

Record last year: 11-10

One reason why: The Rangers have risen up to the top of Region 8A, which has traditionally been a strong grouping of teams. Last season, Hill City's scoring margin was one point, while the scoring margin this season is 14 points, scoring nearly 50 points per game and allowing less than 36 points per game.

Record this year: 9-2

Record last year: 13-10

One reason why: The Titans had a better season than anyone else on this list last year, upsetting Vermillion in the region playoffs and reaching the SoDak 16 before falling to eventual state finalist Wagner. But the Titans have found another gear this season, and have done so against a difficult schedule, with a 3-1 record against Class AA teams, preparing for next year's move up into the Eastern South Dakota Conference and playing in Class AA. This season, Tea Area is 5-1 in road games after going 3-6 a year ago.

Record this year: 9-2

Record last year: 11-10

One reason why: The Cavaliers have had four 20-win seasons in the past seven years, including the Class A title in 2021 and five consecutive runs to the state tournament. But last season was a step back, and Roncalli has promptly bounced back with a defense that allows a mere 33.5 points per game, with the only losses coming to No. 1 Sisseton and to Hamlin. They've also benefited from a huge number of home games, with all but two of their contests this season played in Aberdeen.

Record this year: 10-2

Record last year: 10-11

One reason why: It's hard for the Panthers to get some attention in Class A, especially in a region with defending state champion Hamlin, undefeated Flandreau and a 10-win Florence/Henry in the mix. But the Panthers defense is allowing only 35 points per game, which will give them a shot to win any game they play the rest of the season. Still ahead are matchups with Florence/Henry and Arlington, which are both getting votes in the South Dakota Prep Media rankings.

Record this year: 11-2

Record last year: 12-10

One reason why: The Longhorns have allowed 33.1 points per game, which ranks fourth in Class B for scoring defense. They've posted a 5-2 record against teams with a winning record (Faith's lone losses have been to a one-loss Lemmon squad and undefeated Harding County), and have a 5-1 record in road games.

Record this year: 12-0

Record last year: 11-10

One reason why: The Titans are one of the last two undefeated teams in Class B, along with Faith. Senior Brayden Sumption is leading the Titans, who have a scoring margin of 22 points on the season, up from just two points last season. The Titans have faced five teams with winning records to this point. Starting Thursday, six of the final eight games of the season are against teams with winning records, with a combined record of 57-36.

Record this year: 9-1

Record last year: 11-10

One reason why: Defense is doing the job for the Hawks, who are allowing 38.8 points per game. It's the No. 2 scoring defense in Class B boys basketball. Last season, Canistota allowed nearly 51 points per contest. The Hawks have also done most of that away from home, playing six of their first 10 games on the road.

Record this year: 8-1

Record last year: 10-12

One reason why: The schedule has been a little easier for the Cowboys and they've fared well against all kinds of opponents. Last season, they were 3-10 against teams with a winning record. This season, the Cowboys' only loss was to Glen Ullin/Hebron, of North Dakota, a one-point road loss to a team that is currently 12-1.

Record this year: 9-4

Record last year: 8-13

One reason why: It's been a complete reversal for Flandreau, which averages 53.3 points per game and allows 44.5 points per game. The Fliers have played roughly the same level of schedule but have fared much better against teams with sub-.500 records, standing at 7-0 this season, as Luke Sheppard and Paul Parsley have paced the Fliers on offense. Flandreau still has a challenging schedule ahead, with Dell Rapids, Sioux Valley, De Smet and Baltic on the slate but surpassing last season's win total before the end of January is an accomplishment.

Record this year: 8-3

Record last year: 2-19

One reason why: CEB has gone from allowing 68.5 points per game to scoring nearly 68 points per game and they've done it with a balanced effort on offense. Junior Easton Lawrence is averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds per game, while sophomores Dayson Kennedy (10.4 ppg) and Damien Clown (8.9 ppg) are helping power the offense.