Jadice Morrison, of White River, dribbles the ball as Ceceli Montgomery, of Cheyenne-Eage Butte, looks on during a game Dec. 13 at the Lakota Nation Invitational at Barnett Arena at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. White River is the top seed going into the Class B state tournament in Aberdeen.

High seeds are always a goal and teams certainly would rather be near the top than the bottom going into the state basketball tournament.

But the higher the seed doesn't guarantee success, and White River and Timber Lake will look to play their game rather than their seeding heading into the boys' Class B State Basketball Tournament this weekend in Aberdeen.

White River goes into the tournament as the top seed and Timber Lake is the second seed. Jones County also is the fourth seed, giving West River teams three of the top four seeds in the tournament.

"We appreciate being the No. 1 seed because there is a lot of things that needed to go right and a lot of work put into it, but at the state tourney being the No. 1 seed doesn't mean much if you still don't do all those things that got you the top seed," veteran White River coach Eldon Marshall said. "We know we still have to look to improve and work hard for everything."

The Tigers, 20-2, open the tournament Thursday against No. 8 Viborg-Hurley at 11 a.m. MT.

"Viborg-Hurley has speed and quickness and they're athletic and very well coached, so they are disciplined and execute very well," Marshall said. "We'll have to play our best basketball to advance."

White River has been No. 1 in the Class B ranks for a good chunk of the later half of the season and have had a balanced attack, led by  Tyson Iyotte, who is scoring 17 points a game and Luke Wells at 13.3 ppg., and 8.3 rpg; followed by Jadice Morrison, 12.8 ppg; 3.1 rpg; Teron Sazue, 5.5 rpg; Izaiah Sorace, 9.2 ppg; Nick Sayler, 8.6 ppg.

"Our guys have worked hard all year to accomplish our goals but we're still have more work to do," Marshall said. "I think in all areas of the game we've improved, and I think we've especially had guys improve individually as the season has progressed, gives us more confidence in our depth."

Playing team defense and rebounding will be critical for any team to have success in the tourney, Marshall said, and will be vital for his team's success.

All-in-all, Marshall looks for a tough field of contenders.

"It doesn't matter what seed you are in the tournament, all teams are very closely matched and all the teams have their strengths and they will all do their best to utilize them," Marshall said. "I believe this is one of the most wide open tourneys we've been a part of. Any team is capable of going on a three-game streak and taking it."

For Timber Lake, it has been an exciting season for the Panthers, coach Cody Lawrence said, and one they hope continues at state.

 "We put together a very difficult schedule at the beginning of the year and were able to have success throughout the season," he said. "In the middle of the season, we happened to have had some sickness and injury, but since then we have been able to recover and play at a high level."

Lawrence too feels that the seeding won't be a factor, but the strength of opponents on their side of the bracket will be key.

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 "We are happy with being the two seed but we understand how difficult it is going to be in order to win our side of the bracket," he said. "We talked all year about playing a nameless, faceless opponent and that we have to play well in order to have success this time of year."

Timber Lake, 18-2, opens Thursday at 5 p.m. against No. 7 Bridgewater-Emery.

"Bridgewater-Emery has been a very successful state tournament team the past few years," Lawerence said. "They are very athletic and physical. They have the experience and one of the best players in the state in Sawyer Schultz. They will be very difficult to defend because of their ability to get to the rim."

For the Panthers, Brayden PayPay leads the way at 17.3 points and 3.0 rebounds a game, followed by Tucker Kraft at 14.1 ppg., and 8 rpg. and Isaac Kraft at 10.7 ppg.

"We will need to play our style of basketball and not the opponents," Lawrence said. "We play fast and we like to turn defense into offense and that will play a significant role in the success that we will have this weekend."

Jones County, 19-2, will compete in the four versus five game against De Smet, 21-2, at 12:45 p.m.

Jones County coach Neil Krogman said that one of their goals going into the season was to get to the state tournament.

"I believe this team has continued to improve as the season has progressed. The players on this team are committed to winning and are not worried about personal achievements," Krogman said. "Hopefully we can play up to our capabilities at State."

Leading the way for the Coyotes is Alec Whitney at 15.3 ppg. and 5.9 rpg.; Austin Olson, 14.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg and Morgan Fedderson, 10.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg.

On defense, Krogman said the Coyotes will have to key on De Smet's 6-6 post Trevin Holland, who is scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds a game.

"Holland is tough inside plus he can shoot the 3," he said. "They also have some guards who are excellent shooters and they really rebound the ball well."

Freshman Kalen Garry is scoring 23 points a game for the Bulldogs.

Krogman sees fellow Region 7 foe White River as the team to beat.

"I think White River is the favorite with every other team a close second," he said.

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.