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The progress the Sturgis Brown girls’ basketball team has made in the last couple of seasons likely coincides with plenty of experience at the top.

Two Scooper seniors have started since their freshmen season, while two more seniors earned varsity court time since their sophomore season.

The lumps the young Scooper program took a couple years ago have turned into optimism (13-31 overall record before last season's 11-10 season). Under head coach Jordan Proefrock, Sturgis returns 11 letterwinners from last year’s team, with three seniors already signing letters-of-intent to play college basketball.

“When I came in, these seniors were in 8th grade, and you could just tell they were focused and they had a mission,” Proefrock said. “They saw a lot of varsity minutes at very young ages. Loralee Stock and Olivia Jolley started as freshmen and have started every game since. Cassidy Jorensen and Haley Lambert came in and played a lot as sophomores.

“We have some big goals this year, and making it to state is one of them. We want to be one of the better teams in AA, and we feel that we can do that if we do things right and are consistent.”

Recently, Stock signed to play basketball at Colorado School of Mines, Jolley at Chadron State College and Lambert at Valley City University (Valley City, N.D.).

“I think it is pretty apparent that people are noticing that we do have the three girls who signed, and you have to have some talent to play at the next level, so it is apparent that we have the talent to have a good season,” said Stock, a 5-foot-9 guard who averaged 12 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals a game last season. “We also have a good team connection, and that is what we are looking forward to the most.”

Jolley said the Scooper seniors have all worked to get where they are going.

“It has always been a dream of ours. We’ve just continued to get in the gym and work hard,” said the 5-10 Jolley, who averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds a game. “It’s not every year that we have athletes sign to go play in college, and that is exciting. We’re also looking to have the opportunity to lead our team to state, so it’s a big deal.”

Lambert, at 6-2, averaged 8 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks a game last season, and she said that signing early will be a big advantage for the team.

“We have a lot to contribute, instead of just one person doing all of the scoring or one person rebounding. We all have that better chemistry,” she said.

The three follow former Scooper Brook Janz, a second team all-stater from last year who signed with Dickinson State for this season. The college signings can only help the program down the line, Proefrock said.

Proefrock said the thing with this program is if you put the time in and are dedicated, they'll give them the opportunity.

 “These kids have done more and now they are showing the younger kids that it is attainable if you are willing to work hard," she said. "It is saying that our program is going in the right direction.”

It wasn't always easy as the Scoopers were 5-16 two seasons ago and 8-15 in 2016-2017, before improving to 11-10 last season. 

“We’ve had some rough times, and in our freshmen year, it was not pretty,” Stock said. “But in the back of our minds, we were looking forward to building toward the next year and the next year. Now we’re at our senior season, and we know this is the year to get it done.”

Sturgis also added senior Gwen Simmons, who played for the previous three years at Aberdeen Roncalli. Simmons comes to Sturgis as her father is the new school superintendent.

Proefrock said that losing Janz is a big deal, but Simmons helps fill that void.

“We feel we have speed and some athleticism," she said. "The junior class is also coming along nicely, filling gaps. The thing that we need to do this season is play tough defense and rebound the basketball, and let the offense come with that.”

Another welcome addition has former longtime Scooper girls’ head coach Mike Friedel back on the staff assistant after being an assistant with the boys’ program last year.

“We’re really fortunate to have his knowledge and his experience with the girls,” Proefrock said.

Proefrock said they have some lofty goals like winning the Black Hills Conference and competing against the other area AA teams like Rapid City Stevens and Central.

And there is also earning a state tournament berth.

"In AA, there are some good teams out there, but it is pretty wide open,” she said. “This summer in team camps, we went East River twice purposely to see some of those teams. Our biggest thing is if we can be consistent, and not get on a roller coaster and go up and down, I think we will be a tough team by the end of February.”

Jolley said the Scoopers are ready for the challenge.

“Since my freshman year it has always been, 'maybe we can get to state this year, maybe next year.' This year it is definitely a goal,” Jolley said. “We’re going to have to improve on our defense, and every day we’re going to have to work for it.”

Lambert said they have to be patient and just play their game.

“I think we’re going to take it one day-at-a-time with baby steps,” Lambert said. “We have a new coach (Friedel) who is helping us with every little thing, and that is another big advantage for us too.”

Class AA Boys

Rapid City Stevens Raiders

Head coach: Chris Stoebner

Last season’s record: 19-4

Returning starters or letterwinners: Dawson Paulsen, 6-3, Sr., 11 ppg.; Daniel Vigoren, 5-9, Jr.; Jr.; Tyson Elliott, 5-10, Sr.; Mason Steele Jr., 6-6, Jr.; Joe Bennett, 6-3, Jr.; Anthony Pruitt, 6-4, Sr.; Colton Hartford, 6-0, Jr.; Tad Scherbenske. 6-2, Sr.; Blake Weaver , 5-10, Jr.; Dylan Pourier , 6-2, Sr., transfer from Douglas; Logan Barndt, 6-4, Sr., transfer from Hot Springs.

Outlook for 2018-2019 season: “We hope to be a finished product by the end of the season. We are inexperienced and we have some new faces to the program so early on we may go through some growing pains,” Stoebner said. “We are a pretty skilled team offensively and can at times put five guys on the court that can shoot the 3. The biggest question for us is can we defend and rebound at an AA level. If we can do that I feel like we can compete with anybody on our schedule. We are not very big so it will be important for us to get up and down and not get in a half court grind it out game. This is probably the deepest team we have had at Stevens in now my fourth year.”

Rapid City Central Cobblers

Head coach: T.J. Hay

Last season’s record: 18-5

Returning starters or letterwinners: Elijah Williams, 6-6, Sr., 8 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 2 bpg.; DaSean Marquese , 6-3, Sr.; Gavyn Strand , 6-2, Sr.; Joe Woods, 5-9, Sr.; SR.; Erik Keohane, 6-5, Jr.; Robbie Weber, 6-5, Jr.; Trent Foli, 6-4, Jr.; Kohl Meisman, 6-4, Soph.; Julian Swallow, 5-10, Soph.; Micah Swallow, 6-2, Soph.

Outlook for 2018-2019 season: “With losing 11 seniors, two of them three-year starters, we will definitely go through some growing pains early in the season,” Hay said. “Offensively we have changed some things up a little from last year. Defensively we need to learn to defend for an entire possession, and I believe we can be pretty good defensive team. We have a really good mix of upper classmen and some younger players. I think this group will turn some heads with our athleticism and overall size of our squad. To this point we have been focusing on doing the little things correct and conditioning.”

Douglas Patriots

Head coach: Travis Miller

Last season’s record: 18-6

Returning letterwinners: Wendell Bear Ribs, Sr.; Thomas Rising, Sr.; Kearby Jindra, Jr.

Outlook for 2018-2019 season: “We will be very young this season with very little varsity experience,” Miller said. “The team will need to work hard every day to improve in order for us to compete with the teams on our schedule. Defense and rebounding will be very important, since we will be giving up size at most positions. We will want to play at a quick tempo to take advantage of our quickness.”

Spearfish Spartans

Head coach: Erik Skoglund

Last season’s record: 8-17

Top returning players: Tyler Barkley, 5-9, Sr.; Kevin Kolb, 5-11, Sr.; Taten Rhoades, 5-10, Sr.; Jesse Sacrison, 6-0, Sr.; John Nickles, 6-5, Jr.; Logan Ammerman, 6-1, Jr.; Cade Lyon, 6-3, Jr.; Aiden Woods, 6-0, Jr.

Season outlook for 2018-2019 season: “The hometown crowd will see an excited and up-tempo, but inexperienced Spartan boys basketball team on the floor as only one senior, Tyler Barkley, saw significant varsity time last season,” Skoglund said. “The Spartans lost eight seniors to graduation who controlled the game and varsity minutes last season for the maroon and white.”

Sturgis Scoopers

Head coach: Derris Buus

Last season's record: 13-8

Returning starters or letterwinners: Cedric Stabber, 6-0, Sr.; Ryan Garland, 6-0, Sr.; Jay Krull, 6-4, Sr.; Aleck Keffeler, 5-11, Sr.; Gavin West, 6-3, Sr.; Brekken Pickett, 6-0, Sr.

Outlook for 2018-2019 season: No outlook was made available.

Class AA Girls

Rapid City Stevens Raiders

Head coach: Michael Brooks

Last season’s record: 19-5

Returning starters or letterwinners: Elizabeth Schaefer, 5-10, Sr., 6 ppg. 3 rpg., 30 steals (all state tourney team); Cameron Karley, 5-8, Sr., 3 ppg., 1.5 rpg., Kyah Watson, 6-0, Jr., 11 ppg., 5 rpg., 2.6 apg., 46 steals; Delaney Klosterman, 5-8, Jr.; 3 ppg., 2 rpg., 38 3-point percent; Laura Petik, 5-9, Jr.; 3 ppg ., 2 rpg.; Grace Martin , 5-11, Jr., 8 ppg., 5 reb., 9 steals ( coming back from ACL); Kenadi Rising, 5-10, Soph., 2 ppg. 2 rpg.

Outlook for 2018-2019 season: “Experienced returners combine with a wealth of young talent to create a team full of potential for the upcoming season,” Brooks said. “The Raiders will be lead by senior Liz Schaefer and junior Kyah Watson. These two were members of the All State Tournament Team and 2nd Team All State respectively. Schaefer continued to improve and played her best basketball at the end of the season, developing a consistent 3-point shot, as well as setting the tone for the team defensively. Watson, a South Dakota women's basketball commit, will be looked upon to be a multi-dimensional offensive weapon on the perimeter and in the post. A depth of junior talent with great varsity experience. Klosterman, Martin, Petik and a senior Karley will need to step into roles and provide huge minutes from a departing class of five seniors. The state is loaded with talented teams and we hope to be able to compete at a high level and grow through each practice and competition.”

Rapid City Central Cobblers

Head coach: Kraig Blomme

Last season’s record: 9-15

Returning starters or letterwinners: Juneau Jones, 5-10, Sr. (school rebound record holder); Whitley Heitsch, 5-7, Sr.; Abbie Freeman, 5-4, Sr.; Adi Young, 5-7, Jr.; Jordon Heckert, 5-7, Soph.; Emma Avery, 5-3, Jr.; Reese Estus, 5-10, Sr.

Outlook for 2018-2019 season: “We are a small team that needs to improve our rebounding in order to be successful,” Blomme said. “This team has lots of good athletes that will need to use our speed to create scoring opportunities. Our hope is to be competitive with all opponents.”

Spearfish Spartans

Head coach: Eric Lappe

Last season’s record: 8-13.

Returning letterwinners: Cora Tobin, Sr., 1.9 ppg., 2.7 rpg.; Kennedy Kaitfors, Sr., 1.1 ppg., 2.2 rpg.; Jalyn Carter, Sr., 4.7 ppg., 2.1 rpg., 1.5 spg; Ashtyn Reiners, Jr., 1.4 ppg., 1.4 rpg.; Bella Reid Jr. , 1.0 ppg., 1 rpg.

Outlook for 2018-2019 season: “We have a lot of varsity minutes to replace from last year's team and we don't have a lot of experience returning, but we have an energetic group, who have put in a lot of time over the off season,” Lappe said. “We will need our freshmen and sophomores to step up and give us good play as the year progresses. We don't have a lot of size, so we will need to defend as a tight unit to allow us to compete on the boards. We are anxious to show that we can compete at the AA level. We know it will be a tough climb, but we are up for the challenge, and we hope to be playing our best come playoff time.”

Douglas Patriots

Head Coach: Duane Wince

Last season's record: 5-15

Returning starters or letterwinners: Jordynn Toliver, Sr., three-year starter, 17.2 ppg.; Jeslyn Jindra, Sr., 7.9 ppg.; Nique High Hawk, Jr., 6.0 ppg.; Makayla Grim, Jr.; Chantell Jones, Soph.; Lamara Castaneda, Fr.; Taylor Luthy, Sr.; Alyssa Pulse, Sr.

Outlook for 2018-2019 season: “We are excited about our group coming into this season,” Wince said. “We believe they have worked hard this off season and are ready to compete on a daily basis. The schedule is difficult but the girls are ready for the challenge and we look forward to a successful year. Our keys will be to maintain unity, focus and perseverance.”

Sturgis Scoopers

Head coach: Jordan Proefrock

Last season’s record: 11-10

Returning starters or letterwinners: Loralee Stock, 5-9, Sr., 12 ppg., 4 apg., 2stpg.; Olivia Jolley, 5-11, Sr.; 10 ppg., 8 rpg., 2 stpg.; Haley Lambert, 6-2, Sr., 8 ppg., 7 rpg., 2 bpg.; Gwen Simmons, 5-9, Sr.; Cassidy Jorensen, 5-3, Sr.; Sarah Janz, 5-11, Jr.; Kylie Shaw, 5-7, Sr.; Emily Gray-Smith, 5-11, Jr.; Sydney Shaw, 5-4, Jr.; Kennedy Bush, 5-6, Jr.; Megan Petrocco, 5-4, Soph.

Outlook for 2018-2019 season: See story.

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.