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2014 BV Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

March 25. 2014 10:13AM
Four individuals and Brandon Valley’s first state boys basketball team champs will be inducted Saturday evening into the Brandon Valley Athletic Booster Club’s Hall of Fame.

The 2014 inductions will take place at the annual banquet, which begins with a social hour at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 and the program at 7:30 p.m. at the Brandon Municipal Golf Course. Tickets for the banquet are $20 each and can be purchased at the Brandon Valley High School office through Friday.

This year’s inductees are the 1998 Lynx boys basketball team, and Brandon Valley standout student-athletes Jason Larson, Lindsey Schneiderman-Smith, Jon Montoya and Chris Rygh.
1998 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP BOYS BASKETBALL TEAM - Coached by Brad Thorson, assisted by Damon Alvey, Randy Marso & Tim Pflanz
B.J. Bakker, Beau Fitts, Joe Ford, Greg Gottsleben, Austin Hansen, Wade Johnson, Chad Kriech, Micah Panning, Josh Ring, Kory Scholten, Damon Sehr and A.J. Smith.
They’re a dozen names from more than a decade ago – 16 years to be exact – but combined, the 12 made a name for Brandon Valley High in 1998, when they hauled home the hardware from the Class AA state boys basketball championship that was punctuated with a 21-2 record (12-2 ESD). It was the first state championship for the Lynx boys in Brandon Valley High’s 35-year history.

“It was a great weekend,” is how then head coach Brad Thorson summed up the excitement years later.

But the basketball championship wasn’t the only excitement packed into Thorson’s weekend that year.

“I had a baby on top of it,” he tells.

While the team was en route to Rapid City, Thorson and his wife, Jodie, were in a Sioux Falls hospital delivery room, as Taylor, their daughter and now a sophomore at BVHS, was born at 7 that morning.

“I was a dad and a state champion all in 48 hours,” Thorson said of the couple’s 8-pound, 2-ounce new bundle of joy and the Class AA crown.

“That’s why they call Taylor a ‘tournament baby,’ ” Thorson shares.

The excitement leading up to that weekend actually began the season prior, when the Lynx finished third at the state tourney. Thorson said the program lost some key seniors from that squad, but said the team returned with a good nucleus. Trouble is, Thorson tells, there were “a lot of good teams in the state” that year, starting with the Mitchell Kernels, who were led Florida Gator-bound and future NBAer Mike “Skinny” Miller.

“We were very, very small,” Thorson said, but the Lynx, who had three meetings with the Kernels in the season, took all three games from their ESD competition.

So to combat the height deficit, Thorson said the 1998 squad was forced to be a team that pressed, that ran with it and the shot the three – often.

“We were a very, very up-tempo team,” he said. “And I’ll be honest with you, I get a call every year about the style we played, because it’s (that style) not very prominent now.”

Austin Hansen, who went on to play at South Dakota State and now coaches in the college ranks at Northern Colorado, was the team leader that season. He scored 67 points in the trio of state tournament games and shared Mr. Basketball of South Dakota honors with Mitchell’s Miller.

Despite Hansen’s dominance on the court, Thorson said no one player could’ve done it on their own.

“We just had a bunch of athletes on that team, multi-sport athletes,” he said. “It was a true definition of a team.”

Thorson said the boys tossed their egos aside, accepted their roles and put the team first. But it took a couple of early-season losses to build that team camaraderie.

Brandon Valley’s only losses that season came at the hands of two ESD Conference foes, Brookings and Watertown.

Thorson remembers the pair of downfalls well.

“They came early on in the year,” he said. “We were 4-2 and scratching our heads a little bit.”

Then, something very special started to happen, the coach says.

“We got on a roll, had some confidence and everybody understood their roles,” he said. “What was really amazing after that is we won 17 straight.”

While the roster was loaded with talent that season, the wins didn’t always come easy. In the opening round of District 2AA action, Brandon Valley held on to defeat Sioux Falls Lincoln 53-50 before cruising to a 68-48 victory in the district finals against Yankton.

“Lincoln didn’t have a great record but they were very talented,” Thorson said. “But when you have the target on your back, it’s always difficult.”

Those two victories gave Brandon Valley a direct berth to the Class AA State Tournament at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, where the Lynx dominated Rapid City Stevens 70-46 in the quarterfinals. The next night, the Mitchell Kernels presented a bigger challenge for Thorson and company in the semifinals, but once again, the Lynx prevailed, this time by a nip-and-tuck, 54-52.

“We were behind for most of the game and made a run late in the third,” Thorson remembers.

The game-winning basket came from Chad Kriech – also the tournament’s Spirit of Su award winner – who still today coins the game-winner as “the shot that was heard around the world,” Thorson says behind a big grin. It was Kriech’s fourth – and most crucial – 3-pointer of the game.

“We had quite a few personalities on that team,” he said. “They were so much fun.”

That semifinal victory set the stage for a Class AA showdown between the Lynx and Sioux Falls O’Gorman. In the end, the 63-58 win and the first-place hardware would come home with the Lynx.

But before that hardware was in hand, for a second consecutive game, the Lynx found themselves trailing by 11 points at the half.

“We were very nervous and very tight that first half,” Thorson recalled.

But one more time, the Lynx coaching staff rallied the team with some inspiring halftime locker room talk.

Turns out, those words did inspire the boys. They came back out on the court and put their “relentless full court press and trap” to work for them, which resulted in 11 O’Gorman turnovers and whittled Brandon Valley’s 11-point deficit down to two heading into the fourth quarter.

The game report in the March 25, 1998 Brandon Valley Challenger says that with less than three minutes to play, Hansen stole the ball and made the basket to knot the game at 57-57. The Knights responded by drawing the foul and making a free throw to take their final lead. With one minute remaining, Hansen drove down the court and connected with a wide-open Joe Ford, who proceeded to knock in a 3-point shot, giving the Lynx a two-point edge.

On the following drive, Ford rebounded the ball, was fouled, and on his trip to the line, he dropped in one of two, to boost Brandon Valley’s lead to three.

O’Gorman’s attempt to set up a 3-point shot went awry when Beau Fitts picked off an O’Gorman pass, and he was subsequently sent to the free throw line, where he sealed the win by swishing in both.

“The last two minutes were a blur,” Thorson said. “I remember taking a timeout with 13 or 14 seconds left and we were up by five. I told them, ‘If we don’t foul, this thing is over.’ ”

The players listened, the game was over and the Lynx had won the school’s first ever state boys basketball title.

While it was the boys on the floor putting up the points, the team couldn’t have done it without their supporting cast in trainer Dan Hanna, student managers Scott Babcock, Jered Hight and Ryan Wingate. On the sidelines, cheerleaders David Benson, Allisa Lynn, Josh Malloy, Katie Morrissey, Meghann Morrissey, Angela Taylor, Melissa Thompson, Ryan Thompson and Sarah Travis kept the fans rooting for the team.

A raucous hometown crowd also showed up droves that season to watch the Lynx boys knock one opponent off after another. They played in the “old gym” or what is now referred to as the auxiliary gym.

“It was so much fun to play in that old gym,” Thorson said. “There’s no other atmosphere like it.”

And getting a seat for the games that year proved to be challenging too, take for instance when Mitchell came to town for a regular season meeting.

“I remember leaving the school about 3 that day and there were already 400 people in line for that game,” Thorson said. “It was one of those things where the community really got behind us.”

That, too, was documented in the March 25, 1998 Challenger: “Upon the team’s return to Brandon, they were escorted to the high school by Brandon fire engines. Over 1,000 people were on hand to greet the state champions.

“ ‘It was a wonderful rally,’ Thorson said then. ‘You couldn’t ask for better fans. This is as much their championship as it was ours. They always stood behind us and gave us a lot of confidence.’ ”
BVHS Class of 1990
Jason Larson was a quadruple threat as an athlete at Brandon Valley High, leaving his name in the record books of four sports.

After earning two letters on the cross country team during his freshman and sophomore years, Larson turned his attention to the Lynx football program, where he also earned two letters. As a tight end, Larson had in integral role in helping the Lynx land back-to-back state championships. As a senior, he left his mark on the record books. In one game, he registered a trio of touchdown receptions, and had 10 TD receptions for the season.

On the basketball court, Larson led the Lynx boys in scoring and rebounding while helping the team to a 24-3 record, a number-one ranking all season, and a third-place finish at the state tournament.

Larson played in one of the most thrilling games in the post-season, which turned out to be a 90-85 triple-overtime thriller for third place.

He etched his name in the local basketball record books by netting 1,204 career points, averaging 21.6 points per game in his senior season. He was a four-year letter winner, a three-time All Big 8 Conference selection, an All-State selection his senior year, and a Mr. Basketball finalist.

If that wasn’t enough, Larson also made treks for the Lynx in the spring track and field season.

He helped Brandon Valley in a variety of ways as a versatile performer, which earned him two letters in the sport.

Larson went on to have a successful football career at the University of South Dakota and wrapped up his collegiate career with success on the gridiron and basketball court at Sioux Falls College, now the University of Sioux Falls.

Larson said he has many favorite memories, but cites the football championships, the basketball third-place game against Aberdeen Central, and the amazing fan support for all Lynx activities.
BVHS Class of 1999

Although Jon Montoya didn’t officially become a Lynx until his junior year, it didn’t take long for the football standout to make a name for himself on the gridiron at Brandon Valley.

As a stellar linebacker and fullback for two seasons, Montoya helped to keep Brandon Valley’s proud tradition of success alive by leading the football team to back-to-back state championship games. In the 1997 season the Lynx brought home the state runner-up hardware after dropping a close one to Spearfish. A year later, however, Montoya led the charge to the championship, defeating the Brookings Bobcats in overtime. In that game, Montoya was named the Joe Robbie Most Outstanding Player after scoring two touchdowns on offense and leading the defense in shutting down the Bobcats.

Due to his leadership efforts on the turf, Montoya was twice named to the ESD All-Conference team, All-State team and was named to the Argus Leader Elite 45 team in both his junior and senior seasons. As a senior, he was named the Elite 45 captain and was also named the Gatorade South Dakota Player of the Year.

Following his career at Brandon Valley, Montoya went on to have a distinguished career at Montana State University as a defensive end. While with the MSU Bobcats, he was twice a part of a conference championship team and was named All-Conference and All-American following his senior season.

Two significant wins on the football field still linger in Montoya’s high school sports memories: defeating O’Gorman in overtime in 1997 and defeating Brookings in overtime in 1998’s state championship game.
BVHS Class of 1983
Chris Rygh’s contributions to Lynx athletic programs came on the football field and the wrestling mat, where he collected four school letters combined.

As a senior, Rygh was a starting running back for the football team, and from that sport, was a two-year letter winner.

As a four-year letter winner on the wrestling mat, Rygh had even more success, landing three state tournament placings in his prep career. Wrestling at 112 pounds in 1980 as a freshman, Rygh brought home the sixth-place medal, and improved from there. As a junior, he jumped up to the 132-pound weight class and finished in fourth place at the state meet.

His senior season was the icing on the cake for Rygh, as he finally stood at the top of the awards stand after winning the 132-pound title, capping off an undefeated season.
After Brandon Valley, Rygh went on to wrestle at North Dakota State University.

No additional information was made available on Rygh.
BVHS class of 2000
Lindsey Schneiderman-Smith is one of those athletes that continue to proudly wear the colors of the Brandon Valley Lynx.

Smith, who was a two-sport standout at Brandon Valley, collecting a total of eight varsity letters – four each in volleyball and basketball – returned to the district in 2010 to teach in the elementary grades level and assume the head coaching duties for the Lady Lynx volleyball program.

But as a Lynx athlete herself, Smith was feared by her opponents. On the volleyball court, she was well known for her tenacious attitude and powerful attacks as an outside hitter on the team.

Smith led the Lady Lynx to a rare state tournament appearance, where Brandon Valley captured third place. From her performance at the state show, she was named to the All-Tournament Team.

Smith, too, has left her name on the local school record books, establishing records for attack percentage and kills. In addition, she collected a trio of all-conference mentions and earned All-State twice. Following her senior season, Smith was a shoe-in for the South Dakota Volleyball Elite 6 roster.

On the basketball court, Smith also did her part to help the Lady Lynx earn a pair of state tournament appearances following a several-year drought. Brandon Valley came away from the state show with the third-place hardware in her senior year. She established school records for points in a season and season scoring average during her prep career.

Smith was also recognized outside the Lynx program for her prowess on the basketball court. She was honored twice as an All-Tournament selection, three times as an All-Conference pick, and was twice named to the All-State team.

She tacked on one last honor when, as a senior, she was named as a finalist for the Miss Basketball of South Dakota award. Smith was also selected to play in both the basketball and volleyball South Dakota All-Star games following her senior year.

Smith’s career in athletics carried over to Moorhead State University, where she played basketball for one season before transferring to the University of Sioux Falls, where she suited up for the Cougars in basketball and volleyball. During her tenure at USF, she accumulated six All-Conference, five All-Region, two All-Tournament, and an All-American award.

As a Lynx athlete, Smith said she most cherished helping her teams reach the state tournaments, as well as the great coaches and teammates that she had along the way.

Brandon Valley's 1998 boys basketball team won the Class AA state title that year, finishing the season with a 21-2 record. Members of team that year included, from left, row one: Josh Malloy, Ryan Thompson, Allisa Lyons, Melissa Thompson, Meghann Morrissey, Katie Morrissey, Angela Taylor, Sarah Travis and David Benson; row two: Scott Babcock, B.J. Baker, Austin Hansen, assistant coaches Damon Alvey and Randy Marso, head coach Brad Thorson, assistant coach Tim Pflanz, Joe Ford, Chad Kriech and Ryan Wingate; row three: Wade johnson, Greg Gottsleben, Kory Scholten, Josh Ring, Micah Panning, Beau Fitts, Damon Sehr and A.J. Smith. Submitted photo

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