Dakota Valley’s 62 game win streak won’t be forgotten
It's the second best win streak in state boys basketball history! Dakota Valley’s historic run of 62 consecutive wins came to an end this past weekend during the Hanson Classic at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Hamlin, who is one of the top teams in ‘A’ boys this season, topped Dakota Valley 84-62.
The last time the Panthers lost was to Sioux Valley in the semifinal round of the state tournament in 2021. Since then, it’s been 62 straight wins, which included a third place finish at the 2021 state tournament and state championships in both ’22 and ’23.
“I think we’re just kind of, now that it’s over, starting to process it. Going through it, I can tell you, up until the end, we didn’t even really think about it. And then the last week, it got a little heavy,” explained Jason Kleis, Dakota Valley head boys basketball coach. “We’ve had a lot of postponements, we had a lot of people asking questions, and it got to be a bigger deal.”
While Dakota Valley’s streak ends just shy of Armour’s state boys basketball record of 64 wins in a row (1977-80), runs like this can’t be taken for granted, especially in Class A.
Previously in Class A, Custer held the longest boys win streak with 49. Dakota Valley recorded their 50th straight victory during last year’s SoDak 16. When they won the state championship a season ago, the Panthers mark sat at 53.
“I can tell you it was tough last year. We went into the state tournament and everyone was expecting us to win it, and we could feel a little pressure going into that state tournament,” Kleis stated. “We really hit it head on as a team before the state tournament and told the kids, “hey, there’s going to be moments where you’re going to feel the weight of the world on you, and we just need to stay focused on the things that we can control.” I remember that feeling when that buzzer went off. I think everyone felt the same way – elated, but also relieved. We didn’t feel that [in 2022] when it was pure elation.”
Dakota Valley trailed by nine-points in both the semifinal and championship game during last year’s state tournament, but the Panthers were able to overcome adversity and do what most of the hype expected them to do, win it all.
While players like Isaac Bruns and Randy Rosenquist Jr were the two players who received a majority of the hype on the roster, Kleis talked about how it truly was their depth that helped them achieve the ultimate goal.
“We had so many great players on the roster, our practices were competitive. Last year our role players bought into what it took to make our team great. They could all shoot, which helps,” said Kleis. “We could spread the floor, and everyone could all hit a three if they were open. We just had kids who totally bought in to the team first.”
This year’s approach was a little different for Dakota Valley too. Despite the win streak still being active, the Panthers returned just one starter, Jaxson Wingert, from last year’s senior heavy squad. It was going to be a bit of a revamped roster coming into the 2023-24 campaign. This doesn’t mean that this year’s boys team at Dakota Valley isn’t good. The goals for this season are still high. It more so shows the strength of how competitive Class A basketball is from year to year in South Dakota.
“I’ve been coaching 17 years in Class A, and just knowing how difficult Class A is. There hasn’t been a team anywhere close in history in A or AA (boys) who have done what our kids have done – two consecutive state championships and 62 games in a row,” Kleis exclaimed. “It’s just incredibly difficult to do. To set the records and be as close to other records as we were, and to have the longest winning streak in the nation for quite a spell, it’s just icing on the cake for our kids, and we’ll forever remember it for sure.”
Hamlin, as already stated, is a top team in ‘A’ boys this year. Hamlin’s only loss to a South Dakota opponent this year so far has been a home defeat to Sioux Falls Christian, another top team in ‘A.’
“In the last few days since the streak ended, it feels different. Some of it’s good. There’s maybe a weight lifted off of everybody that towards the end we felt ‘we can’t lose, we can’t lose now,’ and we have not felt that fear of losing, and maybe that crept in a little bit,” explained Kleis. “I think now we’re breathing a little easier, for better or worse, and focused up on making a run at another state title and making more memories. Looking back at it, the things that are starting to come into focus a little bit more are how special it was, how magical it was, we had so many great kids.”
Will Armour’s record of 64 wins in a row ever be broken? It’s hard to tell. Who knows. And honestly, that’s what makes sports fun. There was a time when Ron Flynn’s record of 101 wins at Wakonda looked unreachable as well, but then Roosevelt had a stretch that topped it with 111 consecutive wins. But no matter what happens, Dakota Valley’s streak of 62 straight will forever be remembered as one of the best runs in state hoops history.