Dave Hollenbeck the St. Thomas More boys coach and Larry Aaker coach of the undefeated Winner Lady Warriors. (Aaker photo, courtesy of Mitchell Daily Republic)
By Rich Winter
With a roster full of juniors on the St. Thomas More boys basketball team, I think a lot of us kind of assumed next year would be the year for the Cavaliers. In the 2018 Round-of-16 a young STM squad was routed by Sioux Falls Christian, 75-52 as the sophomoric-centric squad just wasn’t ready.
While 2020 might be an historic one for STM, 2019 has the Cavaliers ranked No. 2 in Class and sitting at 13-1 heading into Saturday’s Showdown GALORE against Class A No. 3 and 13-2 Sioux Falls Christian.
The Cavaliers early-season schedule was highlighted by back-to-back wins over Madison and an 11-4 Aberdeen Roncalli squad (75-49).
On Jan. 19, Hollenbeck’s squad put a scare into Class A No. 1 Tea Area, losing 54-58, again, at the Corn Palace. Since then, the Cavs have been tearing up the AA ranks.
Jan. 22 - 90-48 over Spearfish
Jan. 24 - 64-50 over a 10-4 Sturgis squad.
Feb. 2 - 67-55 over an 8-5 Harrisburg squad.
Most recently, the Cavs got by Class A No. 4 Red Cloud 53-46.
If you don’t think Hollenbeck’s squad will be battle-tested by post-season play, look who they close against.
Feb. 22 vs. Yankton @ Yankton
Feb. 23 vs. Brandon Valley @ Brandon Valley
Winner is a LEGIT Class A state title contender
While most of South Dakota probably knows Winner football coach Dan Aaker, they might not be so familiar with younger brother Larry Aaker who is an absolute coaching BEAST for Winner.
Larry is an assistant football coach, in charge of a driven Winner squad, and in the spring, head coach of the Winner track program.
Not sure everyone remembers that Aaker’s Warriors went 19-3 a season ago. After having a superb season the Lady Warriors were not good in a 69-38 loss in Pine Ridge that kept Winner from the Round-of-16.
In a loaded Region 7A this season, Winner edged a terrific Todd County squad, in Mission 60-58 on Jan. 3. On January 17, Winner edged Pine Ridge, 57-56.
And then, on Feb. 1, Aaker’s crew clubbed the 5-time defending state champion STM Lady Cavaliers 67-38.
Sacred Hoops Directors Bertram and Long talked about Aaker and the Winner girls on their last podcast.