Small Town, Big Dreams: Flandreau Girls’ Basketball Team Finds Success in State Tournament
Sports play a significant role in small towns with little to do. Flandreau, located just north of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is enjoying success with its girls’ basketball team as they qualified for the State Class A Tournament in Watertown this year, their second state qualification in the last four seasons.
In 2020 the Fliers qualified for State, but the South Dakota High School Activities Association canceled the tournament due to Covid-19.
Coach Megan Severtson talked about the feeling of not competing at state in 2020.
“The 2020 team opened the door for our future teams' success. I struggled in 2021 as a coach mentally because our 2020 season was cut short due to Covid. The good thing was I have three juniors who were 8th graders on that team, and they gained valuable experience that season.”
Juniors Claire Sheppard, Lily Klein, and Lizzie Pavlis are the leaders of the Fliers.
Sheppard, an All-State Tournament selection, committed to playing college basketball at South Dakota State University and led the Fliers in scoring this season, averaging 16.1 points per game.
Pavlis grabbed 7.5 rebounds per game while dishing out 3.6 assists per game as an athletic 5’11 forward.
Shooting a team-high 33.7% behind the arch, Klien displays a rare combination of size and speed as a 5’10 point guard.
After opening the season with a 1-3 start, the Fliers never gave up on themselves, according to Pavlis.
“At the beginning of the season, because we are a younger team, we had to get the younger players up to speed. After the 20-point loss to St. Thomas More in the Hanson Classic, we came to practice the next day and said we can either let our season fail or use this loss as a turning point.”
The Fliers would turn the season around by winning the next 15 games, including a thrilling 47-38 SoDak 16 win in a rematch with St. Thomas More that sent them to the state tournament.
During the 15-game win streak, the Fliers' defensive intensity was noticeably higher.
Coach Severtson talked to her team about their identity.
“Your defense can be your identity. We relied on our defense to make scoring difficult for other teams."
What did it feel like making it back to the state tournament?
Klein said, “It stung losing the Sodak 16 two years in a row. This year we finally broke through, and we feel connected. Our young girls stepped up, and we got over the hump. It feels amazing.”
The Fliers opened the state tournament with a loss to eventual state champion Hamlin 42-32.
In the second game, behind Sheppard’s 22pts, the Fliers defeated Lakota Tech 55-41.
In the consolation game against Sioux Falls Christian, the Fliers would fall short in overtime 46-43 for a sixth-place finish at the Class A tournament.
Most of the Flandreau community traveled to Watertown to cheer on the Fliers. For sophomore guard Sadie Iott, the experience of playing in front of family and friends during the state tournament was memorable.
“It was amazing - they bring energy, and it gives us confidence.”
According to Power Forward Sheppard, the lessons learned this season and at state are valuable.
“I learned to work together with my teammates and use each practice as an excellent opportunity to work hard and improve.”
Klein talked about what she would like to improve on over the summer.
“I want to improve my inside moves, ball handling, and shooting. I am also going to focus on improving foot speed and explosiveness.”
Coach Severtson talked about her juniors and what makes them unique.
“They think of themselves as basketball players. Their leadership has been great, and each has a team-first focus, which is rare, especially with all the personal accolades and college offers my three juniors have received.”
For the Fliers, it is not about how this season ended. It's about using the lessons learned over the last four seasons to propel them to their ultimate state championship goal.
There will undoubtedly be much hype surrounding this Flier's squad next season, and rightfully so, but will 2024 be the year the Fliers finally bring a state title back to Flandreau? Only time will tell.