Taylor Edwards, Blake Gardner helped put Hill City basketball on the map

At left, senior Taylor Edwards broke the Hill City High School boys basketball record for points in a game by scoring 42 points in an 81-69 victory over Wall.  The previous record of 38 points was held by Kevin Clemetson set in the 1989-90 season. At right is Hill City coach Blake Gardner. Mr. Gardner stepped down from coaching at Hill City (12 year coach). He is leaving the position due to his appointment as the Hill City School District’s superintendent.

Unless you are from the Black Hills area, or a kid that played against Hill City this year, not a lot of us are familiar with the work of Taylor Edwards and Blake Gardner.

Taylor Edwards, a hidden gem out west

Alright so, anyone that played against Hill City this year likely came away impressed with the 6-foot-6 inch just graduated senior, Taylor Edwards. Despite playing on a team that finished the regular season with a 7-13 record, Taylor Edwards got noticed.

The South Dakota high-school coaches association noticed, naming Edwards to the Class A, 3rd-team

Taylor Edwards, Hill City, 6-6, Center, Senior, 21 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 52% FG.

Stats do not lie, and despite being double and triple teamed all year, Edwards still had monstrous numbers.

Wall certainly noticed: On Jan. 31, Edwards poured in 42 points to break the Hill City scoring record (38, formerly held by Kevin Clemetson).

Black Hills State noticed…

Black Hills State University men's basketball coach Ryan Thompson has announced that Taylor Edwards of Hill City and Dawson Paulsen of Rapid City Stevens were among five student-athletes who signed letters of intent for the 2019-20 season.

"Our coaching staff is very pleased with the additions we have made to our program this spring in signing five student-athletes out of area high schools," said Thompson. "With this group of student-athletes, we are adding immediate depth to our roster along with guys that have an opportunity to develop into impact players in the future."

Edwards played on Matt Rama’s West River 17-U squad last summer.

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Thirteen brilliant years from Blake Gardner - story and photo from the Hill City Prevailer News:

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Hill City High School boys basketball coach Blake Gardner, who had coached the team for 13 years, has stepped down as head coach.

He is leaving the position due to his appointment as the Hill City School District’s superintendent.

“I still love the game of basketball and will continue to be help out any way possible, but everything in my life has revolved around basketball for the past 13 years,” Gardner said. “It is a good time to step down.”

Gardner was hired as the coach when he was 23.


Since then, he has become the winningest head coach in school history and was twice named regional coach of the year.

Gardner has also coached the four leading scorers in school history: Andy Coy (1,248 points), Derek Skillingstad (1,062 points), Ryan Skillingstad (824 points) and Taylor Edwards (808 points).

“I didn’t just coach basketball, I coached kids,” Gardner said. “And I was extremely blessed to coach some amazing kids over the last 13 years. The relationships I made will last my entire life. I love them like little brothers.”

Gardner also served as the South Dakota Coaches Association West River basketball representative for nine years, South Dakota Basketball Coaches Association regional director for 10 years and ran the Lil’ Rangers Basketball Camp, coached the South Dakota Heat AAU team for three summers and created the Black Hills Gold AAU team.

For all of their years of support, Gardner said he would like to thank his family, including his wife, Kati, and their four children, Witten, 4, Baylor, 3, Aspen, 2, and Mercy, 6 months.

“I am so blessed to have a wife that hauled my kids all over the Black Hills for 21 nights a year to watch basketball,” he said. “There is nothing harder than being a coaches wife. I am also blessed for all of the parents and community members that volunteered to hold a baby or take our kids to the concession stand. I love this school and community.”