It’s been sixteen years since the Dell Rapids St Mary Cardinal boys basketball team has been to the State B tournament. That changed when the Cardinals posted a 54-45 Region 4B win over Hanson on Friday, March 5th, and then a 58-51 win over the Elkton-Lake Benton Elks in the SoDak 16 on Tuesday, March 9th.
The #3 seeded Cardinals took on the #2 seeded Hanson Beavers at the Mitchell Corn Palace in the final game of the Region 4B tournament on Friday, March 5th.
In a much anticipated match-up, the first quarter was back and forth as many expected. The Cardinals were able to grab a slim 16-13 lead by the end of the quarter. St Mary was able to push that lead to four points at halftime, 28-24.
St Mary then used a big surge in the third quarter to pull away in the game. The Cardinals went on a 9-4 run to push the lead to 37-28 with 4:45 to play in the third quarter. They finished the quarter with a 10-point lead, 43-33. The Beavers made a push in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter. Hanson cut the lead to 45-40 with 5:00 to go, but the Cardinals responded with a 5-0 run to get back to a 10-point lead, 50-40, with 2:40 left in the game. St Mary was able to hold the lead to take the victory and qualify for the SoDak 16.
The Cardinals were able to take advantage of 17 Hanson turnovers in the game while committing only four themselves. Three players finished in double figures. Connor Libis had 15 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Ty Brown had 13 points and six rebounds. Sam Palmer finished with 11 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Max Herber tallied eight points and five rebounds. Ashaun Roach-Valandra had four points, but also had four assists, three rebounds, and three steals.
St Mary then traveled to Colman to face a familiar Region 4 and Dakota Valley Conference opponent, the Elkton-Lake Benton Elks, in the SoDak 16 game on Tuesday, March 9th.
The Elks held an 11-10 lead, which was their largest lead of the game, with 1:30 to play in the first quarter. Libis hit a base-line jumper to give the Cardinals a 12-11 lead with 1:18 left in the quarter. It was a lead St Mary would not lose. They finished the quarter scoring four more straight points for a 16-11 lead heading into the second quarter. The Elks got within two points, 16-14, with 6:45 to play in the half. St Mary then went on a 15-2 run for a 31-16 lead with 4:00 to go in the quarter. Elkton-Lake Benton responded with a 14-5 run of their own to close out the quarter, and St Mary led 36-30 at halftime.
The Cardinals again pushed the lead to 15 points outscoring the Elks 9-0 in the first four and half minutes of the third quarter. St Mary led 45-30 with 3:30 to go in the quarter. The Elks, however, would not go away. They ended the quarter on an 11-3 run to pull within seven, 48-41, heading into the fourth quarter. The Cardinals were able to keep a 10-point lead throughout much of the fourth quarter. The Elks got within six at 55-49 after an offensive rebound and put back with :31 to go in the game, but the St Mary lead was too big to overcome as the Cardinals took the 58-51 victory to qualify for the state tournament.
Libis finished with a game-high 22 points along with seven rebounds and four assists. Palmer had 14 points, six rebounds, and two assists. Roach-Valandra had six points, four rebounds, and three steals. Brown also had six points. Herber finished with five points and eight rebounds.
The Cardinals will be the #6 seed in the South Dakota Class B State Tournament. Their first game will be Thursday, March 18th against #3 White River at 7:45 p.m. in Aberdeen.