Bison boys are headed back to State!

Photo by Dan Bechtold/Winner Advocate

Members of the Hot Springs Bison boys basketball team pose for a photo in the Chamberlain Armory after defeating the Winner Warriors by a score of 47-43 last week on March 7 in the SoDak16. Also pictured is Assistant Coaches Lindall Janis (far left) and Max Jirsa (back row on right) along with Head Coach Aaron Noteboom (far right).


By Brett Nachtigall


CHAMBERLAIN – After not qualifying for a state basketball tournament previously since 1945, the Hot Springs Bison boys have now made it to the ‘big show’ twice in five years under head coach Aaron Noteboom, who is in his 11th season leading the program.

In both 2019 and now in 2023, the Bison boys qualified for the State Class “A” Championship having to beat Winner in the SoDak 16.

This year Hot Springs was the 11th seed in the tournament and punched their ticket to state on Tuesday, March 7, after driving about 260 miles to Chamberlain, where they defeated the 6th-seeded Winner Warriors by a score of 47-43, who were less than 60 miles from home and had a very large home crowd in attendance.

The Bison boys were the lone “underdog” to unseed a higher-ranked opponent in the SoDak 16, and will thus go into state this week as the 8th seed and face top-seeded Dakota Valley, which will tip-off in Sioux Falls on Thursday, March 16, at 12 noon Central Time. The defending Class “A” champion Panthers are 23-0 so far this year, after defeating 16-seed Miller by a score of 94-41. They finished last season undefeated with a 26-0 record.

Back in 2019, the Bison boys were the ones with somewhat of a “home crowd” advantage in the SoDak16, as the game was played in Rapid City where the No. 7 Hot Springs Bison defeated the No. 10 Winner Warriors by a score of 54-41. The Bison that year were the No. 5 seed in the state tournament but ultimately placed 8th after losses against Pine Ridge, Dell Rapids and Madison.

This season, the Bison boys enter the state tournament with a 19-4 record, which includes not only the four-point upset of Winner last week, but also perhaps an even more impressive 77-67 win over the state’s previously 4th-ranked Rapid City Christian Comets in the Region 8A semifinals. In both cases, Hot Springs dealt their opponents only their second loss of the season.

Coach Noteboom credits his team’s success as underdogs in the post-season to their experience.

“Most of this team has been a part of the program for multiple seasons and collectively they have quite a few varsity minutes under their belts,” he said. “This team is battle-tested and I honestly don’t think we were ever really worried about the rankings because everyone in our locker room believes in each other and shares the same goals.”

“We knew what this team was capable of and have been talking about the state tournament since the first meeting of the year back in November,” Coach Noteboom said. “This team has worked very hard to get to this point and I am happy these guys are able to see their hard work and dedication pay off. This is a special group of guys and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

In their 47-43 win over Winner last week, the Bison got off to a good start by taking a 12-8 lead in the first quarter but then saw Winner neutralize that advantage and tie it up 20-20 at halftime. Winner then took a slight 36-34 lead into the fourth quarter, where the Bison closed it out by outscoring the Warriors 13-7, thanks in a large part to clutch three-point and free-throw shooting.

Hot Springs only shot five free throws in the game but made every single one of them, as Matt Close (2-for-2), Camron Maciejewksi (2-for-2) and Aidyn Janis (1-for-1) were perfect from the line. Maciejewski led the team in scoring with 18, which also included going 4-for-9 from three-point range. 

When asked about his team’s consistently clutch free-throw shooting this year – which also included going 25-for-29 (86%) versus Rapid City Christian – Coach Noteboom said his team usually puts a little more time into shooting free throws towards the end of the season and throughout the post season.

“Most of our guys get to practice early and stay after to work on individual skills like shooting form and free throws every day,” Noteboom said. “These boys have put in a lot of time working on their game and that gives them the confidence to execute in clutch situations.”

Fellow junior Josh Kleinsasser scored 13 points and was 3-for-6 from beyond the 3-point arc. Close had six points and also led the team with eight rebounds and six assists. Senior Preston Iverson scored five, followed by Janis with three and Braden Peterson with two.

“We knew going into the Sodak16 game against Winner that it was going to be a really good basketball game,” said Coach Noteboom. “Both teams are very good defensively and I knew this was going to be a pretty low scoring affair between two evenly matched teams with different styles of play. The game was tight throughout but we were able to make a run late by hitting a couple big 3’s and then seal the win with clutch free throw shooting. This was a gutsy performance by a group of young men who understand what it means to seize the moment.”

Hot Springs’ defense came up big in the contest as well, forcing 13 turnovers (8 for Hot Springs), 13 deflections (5 for Winner) and getting seven steals (3 for Winner).

In addition to Hot Springs (19-4) and Dakota Valley (23-0) facing off on Thursday in Sioux Falls, this week’s state tournament also features No. 4 Sioux Valley (21-2) vs. No. 5 Hamlin (19-3); No. 2 St. Thomas More (20-2) vs. No. 7 Elk Point-Jefferson (17-5); and No. 3 Sioux Falls Christian (19-4) vs. No. 6 Mount Vernon/Plankinton (18-5).

“I think the key to success for us at the state tournament is to come out and play our brand of basketball,” Coach Noteboom stated. “We want to play hard, play smart and play together on both ends of the floor. If we stay true to what got us to this point, I think we will be able to play with anyone who we are matched up against. This is a very good Class ‘A’ Tournament and we are excited to get our opportunity to represent Hot Springs against the best teams in the state.”

Based on season-long stats thus far, this year’s Hot Springs Bison have been led by a crew of juniors who have been playing together for many years, dating back to elementary and middle school on a travel team known as The Stampede, which saw a lot of success.

Kleinsasser, a 6-foot guard, is averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds per game, while Close, a 5-11 guard averages 11 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Maciejewski, a 6-1 forward, averages 9 points and 6 rebounds per game.

Seniors Will Gilbertson and Preston Iverson have also been a big part of the team’s success, with Gilbertson averaging 7 points and 7 rebounds per game and Iverson scoring 8 points per game.

Other players contributing to this year’s varsity team include seniors Landon Iverson and Tyler Remington, juniors Braden Peterson, Modes Kerr, Colin Iverson, Blake Haines and Kayden Hansen, and sophomores Aidyn Janis, Brayden Vandenburg and Teagan Erskin.

Fall River County Herald Star

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