Full Court Press: Three things to watch in the girls basketball SoDak 16

Feb. 28—Trips to the state basketball tournaments can start being booked on Thursday night with the SoDak 16 state-qualifying round for girls basketball.

Eight teams will lock up trips to the Class A tournament in Brookings starting on March 7, while eight Class B squads are looking for a good reason to visit the Black Hills next week for the state tournament in Rapid City.

Here's a look at the Class A and Class B SoDak 16 storylines we're keeping on eye on for Thursday night:

In what seems like an unusually high occurrence, five games in the SoDak 16 round will be rematches. In four of the five instances, the higher seeded team this time won the first meeting.

The exception to that comes in Class A, where No. 9 Florence/Henry will look for its second win of the season over Hanson this year. The Falcons won 47-45 at the Corn Palace on Feb. 3 but Hanson will have the higher seed when the two teams meet in Madison on Thursday.

In Class B, third-seeded Centerville is playing Tripp-Delmont/Armour for the second time this season, winning by 20 points in Centerville on Jan. 23. (Ironically, these two teams are in different regions currently but are slated to be in the same region next season.) Fourth-seeded Ethan and No. 13 Andes Central/Dakota Christian played on Dec. 12 in Lake Andes, with the Rustlers winning 83-44, and Lyman won 72-50 over Kadoka Area on Jan. 9 at Kadoka, with two teams meeting up again on Thursday in Murdo.

Another rematch is in Class A with Mahpiya Luta taking the No. 5 seed to Hot Springs to meet up with No. 12 Belle Fourche. Mahpiya Luta, formerly known as Red Cloud, won the earlier meeting 55-45 on Dec. 30. The rematch with the Broncs could be a tricky one for Mahpiya Luta, as Belle Fourche was the top seed in its region, has won 10 games in a row, and played the toughest schedule of the teams remaining in the Class A postseason. Mahpiya Luta, however, led the state in scoring per game at 72 points and allowed a mere 30.3 points per game this season.

Also in the out of the ordinary category, there are three remaining undefeated teams in the SoDak 16 for Class A and Class B and none of those teams are seeded No. 1.

In Class B, Harding County is the lone remaining undefeated team and is seeded No. 2 at 21-0 on the season. The Ranchers will take on 15th-seeded Northwestern in Timber Lake for a spot at the state tournament.

But in Class A, Flandreau is the No. 3 seed behind Sisseton and Sioux Falls Christian despite its 22-0 record. The Fliers will face Hill City for a state tournament trip next week, and No. 5 Mahpiya Luta is undefeated at 21-0 ahead of its matchup with 12th seeded Belle Fourche. Mahpiya Luta is the lowest-seeded undefeated team in the SoDak 16's girls basketball history dating back to 2017. (This is the seventh season it is being used in all classes and the format has been used eight seasons in Class A.)

Prior to this season, no girls basketball team in SoDak 16 history was undefeated and seeded lower than No. 2. Through 2023, undefeated teams were 11-0 in SoDak 16 games regardless of class.

Even without the field set, a number of new teams are guaranteed to be at the state tournament regardless of how the SoDak 16 plays out on Thursday.

Only No. 2 Ethan and and No. 5 Wall are in the SoDak 16 round this season after making the state tournament in Class B in 2023. The Eagles and Rustlers both finished in the top-four last season, but Class B semifinalists Wolsey-Wessington and Viborg-Hurley — the latter of which was the two-time state champions — both have bowed out.

In Class A, Sioux Falls Christian, Mahpiya Luta, Flandreau, and Sisseton are all in the running for the state tournament again this year. Last year's state finalists Hamlin and Wagner won't return among the four guaranteed new teams in the field.

Some schools have developed strong reputations in this round since its creation. Ethan and Aberdeen Roncalli are both 5-0 all-time in SoDak 16 games. In Class A, St. Thomas More's streak of reaching every SoDak 16 ended this year after seven straight trips, as did Castlewood's run of six consecutive appearances in Class B.

Including the Class AA contests, here's one matchup in each class between now and Saturday to keep an eye on:

Aberdeen Roncalli vs. Mount Vernon/Plankinton, in Huron, Thursday: The Cavaliers and Titans are tied together in SoDak 16 history. In 2019, they both had notable upsets in Class A to advance to the state tournament, with Roncalli winning as a No. 12 seed over Belle Fourche and No. 13 MVP took out Hamlin. If the Titans get an upset on Thursday, it will only be as a 10-seed but the Titans look dangerous after their second win of the season over Wagner to reach this stage.

Wall vs. Colman-Egan, in Fort Pierre, Thursday: The Eagles have had the target on them for much of the season in Class B after a second-place finish in the state last year but now are somewhat under the radar as the No. 5 team in the SoDak 16 round. Wall draws Colman-Egan, which needed a come-from-behind victory over Howard to reach the state-qualifying round. The Hawks have won eight of their last 10 games to reach this stage.

Aberdeen Central girls at Spearfish, Friday: Sixth-seeded Spearfish has found some form in the last month of the season, with eight wins in the last 10 games to close the season. In addition, playing relatively close games against Mitchell and Brandon Valley in February showed the Spartans can compete with some of the top teams in Class AA. The Golden Eagles won the first meeting in December in Spearfish 54-47 but the Golden Eagles are limping into this game with 10 losses in their last 11 games and averaging 35.2 point per game in the last five contests.

Sioux Falls Lincoln boys at Watertown, Saturday: This might be the most emblematic matchup of Class AA boys basketball this season in the SoDak 16 in that it's hard to predict. The Arrows have the better record at 12-8 and the better seed (No. 7) to earn the rights to host this game at the Civic Arena. But the Patriots won the first meeting on Jan. 30 61-54 in Watertown. Since then, the Arrows responded and won five of their final seven games but Lincoln has gone 5-3 in its last eight games and those three losses were to Class AA ranked Brandon Valley and Sioux Falls Roosevelt and Class A No. 1 Sioux Falls Christian.