Bulldogs looking for number five at state basketball tournament
By LARRY LEEDS, Sports Editor
The Madison boys' basketball team will be making its first State A Tournament appearance since 2010. The Bulldogs won the Class A championship in 2010 and finished the season with a 25-1 record (a school record for wins).|
Madison will be taking an outstanding 21-2 record into this weekend's state tournament at Rapid City. The Bulldogs will square off against the Pine Ridge Thorpes (14-8) in the 7:45 p.m. (MDT) game on Thursday.
"When we were going through our summer skills and team camps last summer, I knew that we were going to be a talented team," Coach Mike Ricke said. "However, you never know how all the pieces are going to fit together when the season rolls around. When you have teams like Dell Rapids, Sioux Falls Christian, Elkton/Lake Benton and Flandreau in your region, it would be silly to get over-confident on your chances to get to the state tournament. But I started to feel pretty good about our chance after our win against West Lyon in the Schoolers Classic."
One huge difference Ricke sees in this team, compared with his past two state tournament teams (2009 and 2010), the one elite player is not there.
"We had a couple of elite players on the last two teams -- All-State type players," he said. "On this year's team, we have a lot of really good players, but not necessarily that one stand-out player. We have different players that step up each night out to lead us.
``It has to be difficult to scout us, because there aren't one or two players that you can look at and say, `if we can stop these two guys, we have a good chance'," he said.
Madison has eight players who have scored over 100 points this season. Trae VandeBerg has scored 255 points (11.6 ppg ave.), Jesse Brown 253 (11) Tyler Wiebe 176 (9.3), Mason Sullivan 193 (8.4), Braxton Olson 186 (8.1), Jacob Giles 170 (7.4), Preston Nordling 100 (5.3) and Rush Milne 103 (4.7).
Playing tough defense will make the Bulldogs a tough squad to beat this weekend.
I think that the way we defend makes us a team that others don't want to play. We spend a lot of time working on defense in practice, and the kids take a lot of pride in being a tough defensive team," Ricke said.
"We take lot of pride in making team have to work hard on every possession and try to contest every shot," he said. "The way we defend can wear down teams and force them to make mistakes -- especially as the game goes on."
Ricke believes that the Bulldogs are playing their best basketball of the season heading into the state tournament.
"I think we are without a doubt playing our best basketball right now. Looking at the last four games of the regular season and the three games we've played in the playoffs, we are averaging 76 points per game and only giving up 48. We are shooting 52 percent from the field, 39 percent from beyond the three-point arc and 71 percent from the line," he said. "Those are impressive numbers that we hope to continue to reach in Rapid City."
Pine Ridge has played five games on the Rapid City floor, has scored 1,192 points this year and has allowed 1,053 points.
Madison has captured four basketball titles in school history: 1921, 1945, 2009 and 2010. The 2012-13 team is hoping to be the fifth team to bring home the first-place hardware.
This year's team could be compared to a close-knit family.
"It is a lot easier to coach a team when there are no egos involved," Ricke said. "Our guys are each other's biggest fans and they want everyone to be successful. When we have a guy who is `feeling it,' everybody tries to get them the ball. The only thing they care about is the win. They are extremely competitive and intense with each other in practice, but as soon as practice is over, they walk off the floor together and there are never any hard feelings."