Hanson Boys Classic preview: 'Clutch' Black Panthers enter weekend facing busy second-half schedule

·6 min read

Jan. 21—PLATTE, S.D. — Coming through late in games has become a calling card of Class B No. 5-ranked Platte-Geddes boys basketball through the early stages of the 2021-22 season.

The Black Panthers are off to a 5-1 start (with a contest against 9-2 Lennox on Friday night), with three single-digit victories, a double-digit win over Burke after trailing by eight at halftime and the lone loss coming to Class A No. 1 Dakota Valley.

Though Platte-Geddes lost four players who saw significant time on the court from a season ago, experience has still been key to pulling through late in games for coach Frank Cutler's crew. The Black Panthers' rotation includes five seniors and a junior, with a pair of returning starters from last season's SoDak 16 team.

"We've been able to win the close games," Cutler said. "I think experience helps there, and the kids are sticking with it, making some shots and just being clutch down the stretch. We've just been able to put the ball in the basket when we really needed to."

Platte-Geddes is led by 6-foot-5 senior Caden Foxley, who averages a double-double with 12.8 points and 11 rebounds to go with three blocks per contest. Dawson Hoffman and Jackson Neuman, whose 70-foot heave lifted Platte-Geddes over Gregory on Jan. 17, average better than 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and two assists per game.

Having played in a number of close games so far this season should serve the Black Panthers well heading into the Hanson Classic, where Class B No. 4 Aberdeen Christian (8-2) awaits.

The Black Panthers and Knights — currently fourth and fifth in the Class B seed points standings, respectively — have recent history, as Aberdeen Christian eliminated Platte-Geddes from last year's postseason with a 55-43 win in the SoDak 16 at the Huron Arena. Aberdeen Christian has already visited the Corn Palace once this season, falling to Class B No. 2 White River, 58-48, in the Hoop City Classic on Dec. 28.

The first of two top-five Class B clashes — No. 1 De Smet and White River being the other — is scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. tip time.

"It's a quality opponent and playing in a big atmosphere gets you ready for those types of (tournament) games," Cutler said of Saturday's contest. "We're hoping to come out and execute against that type of opponent in a big game, which Saturday certainly is."

Platte-Geddes enters the Hanson Classic having played the joint-fewest games (seven, including Friday) of any team at the event, setting up a hectic back half of the schedule before any postseason run can begin.

Due to the postponement of an earlier contest, the Hanson Classic is the second of four games in five days for the Black Panthers. Platte-Geddes will face a second four-in-five stretch in mid-February. Starting with Lennox on Friday night, the Black Panthers are scheduled to play 14 games in 28 days.

"We are kind of back loaded with our schedule, but I'd rather practice early and play late," Cutler said. "I think it helps develop your bench because you have to play more people when you're playing that many games."

ETHAN, S.D — The Ethan Rustlers boys basketball team currently sits with a 6-2 record and has won four straight games as they enter the Hanson Classic to face Waubay/Summit. Ethan's won the last four games by an average of 17 points, including a 10-point win on the road against a formidable opponent in Corsica-Stickney on Thursday.

The Rustlers have already played other formidable opponents this season like Hanson and Freeman/Academy Marion, but still have teams like Canistota, Howard and Mount Vernon/Plankinton remaining on its schedule. One of the things that 10-year head coach Bryce Roth enjoys about the Ethan program is the competition they face every year.

"When you look at the schedule, we play a lot of great coaches and a lot of great programs every single year," Roth said. "Every year, we're going to be tested and that will only make us better."

Ethan's next test will be against Waubay/Summit, a team that's won five of its last six games. In each of Waubay/Summit's eight wins this season, they've been decided by at least 10 points. The Mustangs are most recently coming off a 7-point loss to Aberdeen Christian, its second loss of the season.

"Waubay/Summit has a lot of talent from what I've seen and it should be a tough game," Roth said. "I've been able to watch a couple of games that they've had and they're a big team. They're a physical team and in order for us to get a win, we're going to have to play extremely well."

On a team with four seniors and six juniors, Ethan is led by seniors Jay Storm and Kaden Klumb. Storm is the team's leading scorer with 14.4 points per game, while also averaging a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game. Kaden Klumb averages 9.4 points and has made half of his 3-pointers attempted so far. Junior Riley Endres is Ethan's second leading scorer at 11.2 points per game and Kody Klumb, at 9.1 points per game, is the fourth player on the roster to average at least nine points per contest.

Ethan was supposed to have played 10 games prior to entering the Hanson Classic, but two games were rescheduled due to COVID. The Rustlers now play Canistota on Jan. 24 and play Menno on Feb. 12, which gives Ethan four games in the span of seven days in February. Roth said the schedule changes will test the team's depth and resilience later in the season, with the post-season right around the corner.

"Even though we have a good amount of juniors and seniors, when we're in practice, it's pretty evident that you realize how many games we've actually spent on the court together," Roth said. "Every team this season has to handle this adversity, but if there was going to be a group that can handle it, it's certainly this one. These kids have a lot of knowledge about the game and they're the ones I'd stick behind going through a season like this."