A look at all eight teams in the Class AA girls basketball state tourney
The three-day sprint to the state championship begins Thursday in Sioux Falls
SIOUX FALLS — The Class AA state girls basketball tournament begins on Thursday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Here’s a look at the eight state tournament teams in the field at the Pentagon.
Teams are listed in the order of their first round games. Scoring offense and defense stats are listed on a per game basis, with the ranking among all Class AA teams in parentheses:
Sioux Falls Washington
Scoring offense / scoring defense: 50.7 (6th) / 38.1 (2nd)
Recent state tourney history: After being on the wrong end of a 8-seed-over-1 upset against Jefferson in the quarterfinals, the Warriors bounce back as the No. 1 seed. The 2021 state champions — played at the Pentagon — and Washington took fifth place last season at state in Rapid City.
One player to watch: Brooklyn Harpe leads the Warriors in scoring with 16.4 points per game and rebounding with more than seven per contest. She shoots 47% from the field, which leads Washington.
One fact to know: Washington has qualified in its 14th state tournament in the last 15 seasons (including the 2020 COVID-19 season), with 2008 standing as the only event in that time to not include the Warriors.
Scoring offense / scoring defense: 48.1 (7th) / 45.5 (8th)
Recent state tourney history: Watertown is back in the state tournament for the first time in 14 years, which was the last time the Arrows won the state title with a title round victory over Brandon Valley in 2009.
One player to watch: Jaida Young does it all for the Arrows, leading the team with 12 points per game, plus leading the way in rebounds, assists and steals, and shooting a team-best 41.6% on the team.
One fact to know: After starting the season at 1-3 and later 4-5, Watertown has been hottest in the last month, picking up five wins in the last six games. The only loss in that span was a two-point setback to Harrisburg on Feb. 24.
Sioux Falls Jefferson
Scoring offense / scoring defense: 53.6 (4th) / 41.6 (6th)
Recent state tourney history: Jefferson took third place in its first state tournament appearance in 2022, falling to Rapid City Stevens in the semifinal round before defeating Brandon Valley in the third-place game.
One player to watch: Cierra Watkins is the Cavaliers’ leading scorer, posting nearly 13 points per game, although that comes with Aliyah McGovern, Jaidyn Dunn and Ashlen Johnson all averaging more than eight points per game.
One fact to know: Jefferson does a good job of winning the turnover battle, averaging fewer than 12 turnovers a game and causing more than 21 from their opponents. Dunn leads the team with 52 steals, plus 48 blocked shots.
Scoring offense / scoring defense: 45.7 (9th) / 48.1 (13th)
Recent state tourney history: Mitchell is in the state tournament for the third time in five seasons. In 2019, the Kernels knocked off No. 1 O’Gorman in the quarterfinal round and MHS was sixth in the Class AA tournament in 2021 at the Pentagon.
One player to watch: Sawyer Stoebner is the Kernels' do-it-all player, something she showcased in the Kernels’ SoDak 16 upset of No. 5 Brandon Valley, when she had 25 points and 14 rebounds. At 5-foot-9, she averages 14.6 points and 11 rebounds per game.
One fact to know: Mitchell’s 2021-22 season ended with a 9-12 record, but the Kernels have the chance to better that win total with an additional victory at the state tournament this week.
Scoring offense / scoring defense: 57.3 (1st) / 41.5 (5th)
Recent state tourney history: The No. 2-seeded Governors are in the state tournament for the first time since 2017 and will make a run for a possible state title for the first time since 1991. Pierre also reached the title round in 1997, 2007 and 2008.
One player to watch: Remington Price leads the Governors in scoring with 13.6 points per game, helping to lead Pierre to bounce back from a 10-11 season in 2021-22.
One fact to know: Of the Governors’ three losses, only one came to teams in the Class AA field, with the other two at the hands of Brandon Valley and Bismarck (N.D.). In the other game, a potential state championship preview, Sioux Falls Washington defeated Pierre 57-49 in Sioux Falls on Jan. 7.
Rapid City Stevens
Scoring offense / scoring defense: 53.7 (3rd) / 45.3 (7th)
Recent state tourney history: Still seeking their first state title, Stevens has played in the last two state championship games, despite being a No. 6 seed in 2021 and a No. 4 seed in 2022, but the Raiders fell to Washington and O’Gorman, respectively.
One player to watch: Taaliyah Porter is the Raiders’ leading scorer at 17.1 points per game. No other player on Stevens’ roster averages more than eight points per game.
One fact to know: Stevens had six of its seven losses this season come at the hands of teams in the Class AA bracket, including a 58-46 loss to first-round opponent Pierre in the second game of the year on Dec. 9.
Scoring offense / scoring defense: 54.6 (2nd) / 38.0 (1st)
Recent state tourney history: O’Gorman won the 2022 title, defeating Sioux Falls Lincoln, Brandon Valley and Rapid City Stevens on the way to the title, including a 50-37 win in the title game. The Knights were third in 2021 and also won the title in 2017.
One player to watch: Mahli Abdouch, the junior guard, already has a ton of state tournament experience and the South Dakota State commit leads the Knights in scoring at 16.4 points per game, plus has 4.5 assists and 3.3 steals per game.
One fact to know: Coach Kent Kolsrud earned his 400th win as a coach earlier this season with a win over Yankton. In 25 seasons, his Knights teams have reached 20 state tournaments.
Scoring offense / scoring defense: 43.8 (13th) / 38.4 (3rd)
Recent state tourney history: Since joining Class AA in 2014, the Tigers have made every state tournament, with their best finish being back-to-back runner-up in 2017 and 2018. They finished fifth in 2021 and sixth in 2022.
One player to watch: Abigail Flanagan leads the team in scoring with 10.1 points per game and has hit about a third of the team’s 3-pointers for the season (41 of 121 made 3-pointers).
One fact to know: The Tigers like to grind out their games — they haven’t scored 60 points or more in a game this season. It’s worked well for Harrisburg, who is 7-4 this season against teams with a winning record.