(The following blog was written by Dan Genzler, author of The Genz blog found at www.genzmania.com)

It will not be long before win and advance will be the order of the day in South Dakota preps hoops.

Looking ahead, the Districts will start on Feb. 27  in the various classes of both boys and girls hoops. The girls state tournament will be held on March 8-10 with Class B in the Huron Arena, Class A at the Young Center in Spearfish and AA at Frost Arena in Brookings. Meanwhile the boys tourneys are set for AA at the Rushmore Plaza Center in Rapid City with Class A in the Sioux Falls Arena and Class B at the Barnett Center in Aberdeen on March 15-17.

From my perspective, it would be better for the state to congregate these tournaments at one site, preferably Sioux Falls, which has the greatest capacity to hold such a tournament. However, that issue is for another time and blog discussion.

For now, let’s just look at the classes across the boys and girls divisions and see who stacks up as favorites.

O’Gorman Ready to Defend AA Title

In Class AA Boys, Sioux Falls O’Gorman, the two-time defending champions, is ranked #1 despite the loss of three first all-state performers (Sterling Nielsen, Keaton Moffit and Cedric Lang). Head Coach Derek Robey is doing one of his best coaching jobs this season. He has his team at 14-3, employing a disciplined approach and utilizing aggressive play around the basket to their advantage. Connor Schaefbauer (17.4 ppg) Sam Wallin (10.3 ppg) and others have been good all season. Robey is now 127-37 at O’Gorman and 369-209 overall. His next win, which may come tonight at SF Lincoln, will be #370 of his career.

The Knights own a five-game winning streak and have won 52 of its last 53 vs. in-state opponents. O’Gorman is 77-15 since the 2008-09 season, including back-to-back AA titles in 2009-10 and 2010-11. O’Gorman has 15 straight wins over city opponents, dating back to a 48-42 loss to Sioux Falls Washington on Jan. 23, 2010. O’G has a combined 19-5 mark vs. SF Lincoln (6-2), Roosevelt (7-2) and Washington (6-1) since 2008-09.

As noted, tonight O’Gorman plays a hot Lincoln team. The Knights are on a role vs. the Pats with six straight wins, including two straight one point decisions. The last Patriots win over O’G was a 46-40 win on Feb. 20, 2009.

The Sioux Falls Lincoln Patriots are 14-2 and are on a roll with seven straight wins. Jeff Halseth’s crew will look to end that losing skein to the Knights at home tonight. The Patriots have one in-state loss, falling to SF O’Gorman, 40-39 on Dec. 16. In fact, they have two straight one-point defeats to the Knights, dating back to the Class AA semifinals last spring. The Patriots, which has won 13 of 14 games, are led by Trey Naasz, Matt VanderWoude and 6-8 Scott Mulder inside. After tonight, they will set their sights on returning to the state tournament, where they finished a disappointing third last year.

In his final go-around Gary Munsen’s Mitchell Kernels (15-3) will try and win their state-best 17th overall title. Munsen, who is 636-240 all-time, will look to help guide his squad to its 10th title during his tenure. All-state forward Tucker Volesky, Brady Carlson, and Co., will be a tough out.

Brookings (11-5) started the season a bit slow, due to an unfortunate and wierd injury to star guard Tanner Odegaard who fell off a roof. But now the Bobcats are playing as well as anyone. This season, they have a win over O’Gorman, ending a 47-game win streak by the Knights vs. South Dakota opponents. Since opening 4-4, Brookings has won 7-of-8 games. They have pulled off two big home wins, including the win over O’Gorman. On Friday night they upended #3 Mitchell, 45-42. On Feb. 7 they defeated Watertown, 46-44, on the road.

Another team to keep an eye is Pierre Riggs (13-5), which features all-state forward Lane Severyn but has lost a key player in center Zach Hansen. The Governors, sixth in last year’s tourney, will try and advance to the state tourney in search of its fourth state title (last crown in 1982).

Watertown (10-8), which has four state titles and appeared in nine state title contests, can shoot it with Blake and Tanner Heiser and might offer a surprise.

And, don’t forget about Sioux Falls Washington (10-7), which was was fourth a year ago and has 11 state titles, but none since 2003. Jim Trett’s group is led by Justin Trett, Tyler Shetterly and Joey Habtmeriam.

Sioux Falls Roosevelt, (9-7), which won a state title in 2000, is led by guard Tyler Howard, and hopes to change course after three losses in four games.

Another team to keep an eye on is Tim Buddenhagen’s Huron Tigers (10-8), which has won five straight. They feature star forward Luke Carr. The Tigers have a long and storied basketball tradition with 11 titles but the last one coming in 2004.

It doesn’t appear likely that any team out west will be in the hunt, even with the AA tourney in Rapid City. In fact District 4 of Douglas (5-10), Rapid City Central (4-12), Rapid City Stevens (3-13) and Sturgis (0-16) have a combined 12 wins but will send one of their teams to the Rushmore Plaza.

STM Is Favorite In Wide open Class A Boys Field

Class A may be the most wide open of all the classes with as many as 12 teams with the capacity to win a title.

While Dell Rapids (13-4) recently dropped a pair of games, Mark Shriver’s squad has a wealth of talent including junior Cole Langer (15 ppg, 8 rpg) and junior Bruce Koch (14 ppg and 11 rpg, named to the Class All-State Tournament Team a year ago) inside and senior sharp shooter Michael Schmidt on the perimeter. A year ago, Dell Rapids was third in Class A and will look to add its first state title since 1972. Dell Rapids will be a tough out. However with Garretson (12-4), led by Sawyer Gibson (15 ppg, 8 rpg) and Sioux Falls Christian (12-5), led by Carson Long among others, in the same district, a good team will be eliminated early. SF Christian has split with Dell Rapids, winning a 62-57 decision and losing 61-58.

In this class, the west features one of the state’s best squads in St. Thomas More (16-2). STM, which will be challenged by Spearfish (11-5) in the districts, feature Skye Warwick, a dynamic and explosive player. STM, the defending champions (63-47 over Viborg/Hurley) has won three state titles as they shoot for #4.

Also look for McCook Central/Montrose (14-3) to be a state-tournament contender. MC/M, which has never won a state title, has won eight straight games and defeated McLaughlin, 65-52 last weekend, led by Shayne Gottlob’s 26 points and 10 rebounds. Gottlob has been a walking double double with 17.8 ppg and 11.9 rpg. In that MCM/McLaughlin game, Hank Taken Alive, who has had at least two games of 35 or more points this year, scored 35. He also had 39 from Cheyenne Eagle Butte.

Another district battle features four-time state champion Madison (15-3), which has won seven straight including a win against SF Christian; and Flandreau (14-3), which had a five-game winning streak halted by Clark/Willow Lake (13-6). C/WL won for the seventh straight game and feature Skyler Flatten, one of the top players in the class.

Others who will be in the hunt include Dakota Valley (14-3), two-time state titlist Milbank (14-3) and winner of 10 straight; along with Winner (13-3), Miller (12-3), and Chamberlain (13-3). Miller has one of the state’s top talents in Darin Peterka. Winner and Chamberlain will be trying for their first state title while two-time champion Miller looks for its first since 1972.

White River Will be Tough to Stop in Class B Boys

It will be very hard for any team to stop the White River express, directed by Eldon Marshall. They have been ranked #1 all season and defeated 16 straight opponents.

This last weekend, White River beat then A #1 Dell Rapids by 16. Wyatt Krogman, who is averaging over 20 ppg., scored 26 points with six assists while Nic Waln had 18 points and Matthew Gillen added 11.

White River is the only team in either the boys or girls rankings to retain the its #1 ranking all season. White River , which has won three state titles has won every game by at least 11 points. Other than a 60-49 win over McLaughlin, White River has defeated all opponents by 16 points or more and own nine wins of 37 points or more. White River will look to make its fifth straight state tourney. Since they have won titles recently in even years (2008, 2010) and lost in odd years (2009, 2011), this might be their year, if you believe in those kind of things.

Faith, which has never won a title, is a team to watch with 17 straight wins, all by double digits.

Another team to watch closely is Kevin Jackson’s Rosholt squad, which is 16-1 with just a loss to Maple Valley, N.D. This last weekend, they upended a solid Canistota team, 65-59, as Adam Krueger had 20 points while Koby Jackson contributed 18 points and eight rebounds. Rosholt has appeared in just one state tournament, 1926, some 86 years ago.

Another team that will make a run at the state title is Viborg/Hurley (16-2), which has won seven straight and owns 13 wins in 14 games. Despite the loss of all-state center Zach Kraning, they are explosive with Dennis DeNeui, Jack Huether and Trevor Jacobsen. A year ago, Viborg/Hurley lost in the Class A finals to St. Thomas More and now try and win a first-ever state title.

Canistota (14-3), which won their only title in 1958 and finished seventh a year ago, has lost three of four games. However, they feature a group of standout athletes, including Cody Bunger and Jason Van Winkle, and will be another team to watch.

Langford Area (15-2), which is seeking its first state title, has won seven straight and looks solid led by Nick Alberts and Kyle Johnson. Earlier this year, head coach Paul Raasch passed 100 career wins at Langford and now sits at 114-23. He is approaching 380 career wins at 378-180.

Then there is Lower Brule (16-3) with 10 straight wins, three-time state champion Sully Buttes (13-3), Wolsey/Wessington (14-2) and James Valley Christian (14-3) with first-team all-state forward Adam Hofer.

It might also behoove basketball watchers to pay attention to a 17-2 Dupree squad which has lost twice, both to unbeaten Faith. Dupree, Lower Brule, Wolsey/Wessington and James Valley Christian are all schools looking for a first championship.

Mitchell at Head of AA Girls

At the head of the Class AA Girls is top-ranked Mitchell, which as won 12 straight. Coach Wes Morgan’s Kernels is led by SDSU recruit and all-state forward Kerri Young (18 ppg) along with standout sophomore guard/forward Maci Miller. Mitchell is shooting for its fifth state title.

Sioux Falls Washington (15-2), which is seeking a sixth AA title, lost a wealth of talent from a year ago but are solid led by Sarah Zirpel (12.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.2 apg), Emma Hanson (10.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Ellie Benson (9.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Hannah Weber (8.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg). They have won nine straight. Head coach Nate Malchow, who passed 100 wins earlier this year, sits at 112-47 for his career as he tries to lead the Warriors back to the state tourney where they were fifth a year ago.

Yankton (11-5), which has won nine titles and appeared in 14 championship tilts, has been on fire after a rough start to the season due to some pesky injuries. With Mikala Hora back, along with SDSU recruit Chloe Corneman and Emily Fedders, this is a solid group. Coach Doug Pesicka is approaching 300 career wins as the Gazelles head coach, having surpassed the 300 overall career wins earlier this year. He stands 293-192 at Yankton and has a 307-208 overall coaching record.

The defending champions Brandon Valley (12-5), paced by USD recruit Heidi Hoff (21.8 ppg), will look to win its second straight title. However, they are matched up with Washington in the districts, which means one of the two schools, both ranked in the top five, will try and go through the loser’s bracket to the state tourney.

Dawn Seiler’s Aberdeen Central squad has a group of outstanding athletes and could be a favor. They are led by junior Bryn Flakus, sisters Kelcy and Kayla Schaunaman and Tiffany Lundberg. A year ago, Aberdeen Central was third and is chasing its first state title.

Watertown (11-6), which has four state titles, is led by USD recruit Tia Heimiller and also could figure in a state title run.

Sioux Falls O’Gorman (10-8) is led by all-state guard Chandler Nielsen. Chris Clark’s Sioux Falls Roosevelt (10-6), crew which has seven titles, features seniors Sydney Rome and Anja Cucak.

Unbeaten Wagner Leads Class A

#1 Wagner (18-0), which has not won state titles since 1998 and 1999 when Mandy Koupal led the way, remains the only unbeaten team in SD prep girls basketball and will try and win a third championship.

Led by all-state standout Devon Brecke and Jessica Doom, Wagner will be tough to knock off. They have a 42-36 win over #2 St. Thomas More, who has won four straight and seven of eight. STM, which was fourth a year ago in its first ever state tourney appearance, have won by 20 or more points in their last four wins. STM has lost only to Wagner on Jan. 14 (42-36) among in-state competition. They also have a loss to Chadron, Neb.

Elkton/Lake Benton (16-3), led by all-state guard Cassidy Gebhart and Megan Krogman, has eight wins in nine games. Led by head coach Steve Krause, who is now, 81-11 in his career, E/LB looks for a second championship after winning in 2010.

Tri-Valley (16-3), which has made consecutive state appearances (seventh last year) and won the 2003 A title, has won seven straight contests and is a hot squad heading into the final stages of the regular season. They will be another team to watch.

Sisseton (15-2), led by coach Cal Schubert (327-109 all-time), has won two straight and six of seven games. A year ago, they defeated Beresford, 50-39, for the school’s fifth title. They lost the bulk of that team but have been one of the state’s best this year.

Parkston (15-3), winners of eight consecutive games, is led by one of the state’s top point guards in Marie Malloy, a five-year starter and all-state performer. Malloy, who is averaging 23 points and eight assists per game, has scored over 1,600 career points. This season Parkston coach Rob Van Laecken become the all-time wins leader in girls basketball this year (passing the late Fred Tibbetts) and now has an all-time record of 563-201.

Don’t close your eyes on Miller (16-2), a two-state champion, which has won nine straight; or Aberdeen Roncalli (14-4) which as 10 wins in 11 games and seeks its first state title.

Vermillion (15-3), which won the 2007 crown, and two-time champion West Central (14-3), which has wins in 14 of its last 15 games, are other squads with solid teams that could make noise. Tonight, Vermillion’s get’s its biggest test of the year in a road trip to top-ranked Wagner.

B Girls Looking at Summit

#1 Summit (17-2), the defending champions, has won 12 straight and defeated three straight opponents by 25 points or more. Summit, which is looking to return to the state tournament for the seventh straight time and in search of its third title, is led by a sister combo of Logan and Presley O’Farrell. Summit’s coach Mark Amdahl, who has a 170-24 career record, guided the squad to a state title a year ago with a 42-40 overtime win against Newell.

Centerville (16-3), which has won eight straight games, is focused on bettering a fourth place showing at last year’s state tourney. Coach Jamie Parish, now 127-92 in his career, has one of the state’s top players in junior Kieran O’Malley, who began her career for the Tornadoes as a seventh grader and is averaging over 22 points a game for the second straight season. She is assisted by another 1,000 point plus scorer in Samantha Blake, who averages15 points and seven rebounds.

Joining the fight for the B title will be Eureka/Bowdle, which made its only state appearance in 1985, and is one of the hottest teams in the class. E/B has won 11 straight games, including a defeat of Herreid/Selby, which was at the time ranked #1.

Herreid/Selby (16-2), which won a title as Selby Area in 1989, is led by a tandem of 5-8 junior guard Taylor Madden (15 ppg) and forward Shauni Schwartz, another double digit scorer. A year ago they reached the region finals only to fall to Highmore-Harrold.

Estelline (16-2), which has only made one state appearance in 1993, is another solid team that will be in the hunt.

Warner (17-2), which has not won a state title, is on a torrid winning pace with 16 victories in 17 games, including six straight. They have won their last six games by 12 points or more.

In addition, two-time champion Sully Buttes (16-2) has won 13-straight games, the best string in Class B.

Castlewood (14-2), which has two titles including the 2010 crown, has won nine straight games.

Sanborn Central/Woonsocket (17-2) has won eight straight games and 11 of 12 overall as they look for their first title.

Finally, there is Hanson (16-3), which is led by all-state center Ashley Robinson, who is averaging nearly 20 ppg and over nine rebounds. Led by coach Jim Bridge, who has a 422-160 record, Hanson is looking for its first title. They are on a roll with 12 straight wins.

Langer Reaches 1,000: Cole Langer of Dell Rapids, who earlier this year had a triple double in a game, reached the 1,000-point mark in a loss to Dakota Valley on Feb. 10. He is averaging 14 points and nearly nine rebounds per game.

A unique motivation style: Coaches find a variety of ways to motivate their teams. Rapid City Journal reporter (former intern of mine at USD), Vance Janak shared one style by Donovan DeBoer, the head girls coach at Rapid City Stevens, who employed “The Little Engine that Could” as his team handed Sioux Falls Lincoln a 38-37 defeat on Friday night. Janak writes: “Whether it was reading the popular children’s book or the Raiders getting back to their fundamentally-sound defense, Stevens found a way to overcome an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit before holding on for a 38-37 Greater Dakota Conference win at Carold Heier Gymnasium.” USD recruit Margaret McCloud played a key role with a double double of 12 points and 13 rebounds. http://rapidcityjournal.com/sports/high-school-basketball-stevens-snaps-slide-with-win/article_433ea4e8-5473-11e1-8ff3-001871e3ce6c.html

Centerville’s Kieran O’Malley On Fire — Kieran O’Malley of Centerville is one of the state’s top talents across all classes in SD prep girls basketball. Her latest escapade was a three-point shot at the buzzer to send Class A Beresford to a 66-64 defeat. Yet, that kind of play is common with O’Malley, who is a five-year starter. She is averaging 22.7 points per game in leading the #3 Centerville Tornadoes to a 16-3 record. She is also averaging 4.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game. With 322 assists in her career, she ranks second all-time at Centerville. She is also second all-time in steals with 277. In terms of points, O’Malley has 432 this year and is Centerville’s all-time leading scoring with 1,831 points. She scored 108 points as a seventh grader, followed with 334 as an eighth grade, 375 as a freshman and 582 a year ago.

During her career O’Malley has had nine games of 30 or more points, including three over 40 points. Her 43 points against Parker this year was the second highest of her career. A year ago she had 45 vs. Colman Egan. Another all-time great at Centerville, Janna Austin (early 1990s) scored 30 or more points 12 times and finished with 1,685 points, just ahead of a sister Stephanie with 1,452 points. Also of note is the play of Samantha Blake for Centerville. Averaging 15.8 ppg and 7.4 rpg, Blake has 1,189 points and 839 rebounds (third all-time at Centerville). Amazing that Centerville has two players on the same team with 1,100 or more career points.

O’Malley’s Form Explosive Brother-Sister Duo — Kieran O’Malley is averaging 22.7 ppg and her brother Seamus is at 20.6 ppg, making them a rare brother/sister duo averaging 20 points a game for their respective teams. Seamus has led the boys to a 14-4 record while Kieran’s points has helped the Tornadoes to a 16-3 record and #3 ranking.

BV’s Heidi Hoff Racking Up Career Totals — Heidi Hoff, who led Brandon Valley to its first state title a year ago, is trying to repeat that effort as the fifth-ranked BV sits 12-5 this season. Hoff, who is averaging 21.3 ppg., has 1,285 career points, including 362 as a senior, 478 as a junior, 264 as a sophomore and 181 as a freshman. She has 59 double figure games including 25 of 20 points or more. She has three games of 30 or more, including a career-best 45 points this season. Hoff, who will play at USD next year, had 34 points a year ago in the State AA first round in a victory over Mitchell. During her career, Hoff has totaled 71 career blocks, 177 steals, 320 assists and 598 rebounds. Every year she has upped her scoring average, moving from 7.0 ppg to 12.0 as a sophomore, 18.4 a year ago and now over 21 as a senior.

Winning Streaks by Class

A number of teams have caught wire recently and are on substantial winning streaks. Here is a list of SD prep teams (boys and girls) with at least five wins in a row.

AA Boys

Lincoln (14-2), 7 (13-of-14)

O’Gorman (14-3), 5, (9-of-10)

Huron (10-8), 5

A Boys

Milbank (14-3), 10

McCook Central/Montrose (14-3), 8

Clark/Willow Lake (13-6), 7

St. Thomas More (16-2), 7

Madison (15-3), 7

Chamberlain (13-3), 5

Elk Point/Jefferson (10-7), 5

Miller (12-3), 5

Tea Area (12-6), 5

B Boys

Faith (17-0), 17

White River (16-0), 16

Lower Brule (16-3), 10

Langford (15-2), 7

Viborg/Hurley (16-2), 7 (13-of-14)

Wolsey/Wessington (14-2), 6

James Valley Christian (14-3), 6

Rosholt (16-1) have won 16 straight vs. South Dakota opponents.

AA Girls

Mitchell (17-1), 12

SF Washington (15-2), 9

A Girls

Wagner (18-0), 18

Miller (16-2), 9

Parkston (15-3), 8

Tri-Valley (16-3), 7

Clark/Willow Lake (15-3), 6

Bon Homme (14-5), 6

B Girls

Sully Buttes (16-2), 13

Summit (17-2), 12

Hanson (16-3), 12 (15-of-16)

Eureka/Bowdle (15-1), 11

Castlewood (14-2), 9

Sanborn Central/Woonsocket (17-2), 8 (11-of-12)

Warner (17-2), 6 (16-of-17)

ORR (14-4), 6

Timber Lake (11-7), 5