Cardinals Hoping To Reclaim Rotary Holiday Classic Titles


By Con Marshall

  After both Chadron High School teams were denied the championships of the Rotary Club’s George Watson Holiday Classic last year, the Cardinals are hoping they can reclaim the titles this year.

 The Classic, entering its 13th year, will be played this Friday and Saturday, Dec. 29 and 30, in the Chicoine Center at Chadron State College.

The first-round pairings Friday will send Custer against Hemingford while Chadron will meet Valentine on the lower half of the bracket,

Friday’s action will tip off at 2 p.m. with the girls’ game.  The Custer and Hemingford boys’ game will follow at about 4.  The Cardinals and the Badgers will open the evening session at 5:30 with that girls’ contest. 

Saturday’s schedule will begin at 10 a.m. with the girls’ consolation clash.

 The Chadron girls are 2-5 with back-to-back wins at home over Gordon-Rushville (63-51) and Gering (44-42) on Dec. 8 and 9.  The Lady Cardinals, coached this year by Kelsey Scott, also played superbly in their opener when Sidney edged them 44-43. Since then the Red Raiders have won each of their seven remaining games by at least 18 points.

The Lady Cards, who lost to a potent Bayard team (53-39) in their second game, also fell to undefeated Bridgeport (82-57) on Dec. 16 and to Torrington (53-45) and Scottsbluff (55-30) last week. 

The Chadron boys lost to Sidney (58-35), which like the Lady Raiders are now 8-0, in that opener, then reeled off wins over Bayard (61-19), Gordon-Rushville (66-10) and Gering (68-64).

Since then, Coach Kyle Sanders’ team has lost to Bridgeport (68-57), downed Torrington (45-39) and been thumped by Scottsbluff (79-34).

The Valentine boys are bringing a 2-5 record to the classic. They lost to O’Neill and McCook during their opening weekend, then defeated two South Dakota teams, Miller and Todd County, before falling to Cozad, Ainsworth and West Holt. 

At last year’s Rotary Classic, Custer defeated the Badgers 75-50 in the first round, but Valentine stopped Hemingford in the consolation contest 61-45 when sophomore Badgers’ Andon Olson poured in 40 points.

The Valentine girls have a 4-4 record so far with wins over O’Neill, Mullen, Todd County and Cozad and losses to McCook, Ainsworth, West Holt and Gordon-Rushville. The Lady Badgers evidently play good defense.  None of the teams they have defeated has scored more than O’Neill’s 32 points, while the remaining three were limited to no more than 25.

The seasons have not gotten off to a good start for either Hemingford quintet. The LadyCats are 0-6 and the boys are 1-5, defeating Gordon-Rushville (45-26) in the opener, but losing to Hyannis, Bridgeport, Hay Springs, Mitchell and Leyton, all by at least 14 points.

Defense was the Custer teams’ forte in both of last year’s championship-game wins over the Cardinals.

The Lady Wildcats won 34-25, when Chadron, which led 17-15 at halftime, fell behind 28-25 in the third period and was held scoreless in the fourth frame.

The Custer boys won their title tilt 52-38 after jumping out to a 15-4 first quarter margin. The Wildcats still led 38-29 entering the final eight minutes when they outscored the Cards 14-9.

Kyle Virtue, a 6-4 sophomore a year ago, led Custer with 21 points against the Cardinals after he’d scored 20 versus Valentine in the opener.

Both Custer teams have played only in the Lakota Nation Tournament in Rapid City so far this winter. The girls are 2-2 with wins over Todd County and McLaughlin and losses to Wall and White River.  The boys are 3-1 after beating Red Cloud, Crazy Horse and Wall, but losing to White River 52-48.    

A fifth game is due to be played in the Chicoine Center on Saturday after the Rotary Holiday Classic as the Chadron State College men host York College in a non-conference exhibition game at 7:15.

The Eagle men are 7-4 for the season after winning 4 straight RMAC games ay home. The Panthers are 4-4 so far in 2023 with one of their losses to Bellevue University. CSC beat Bellevue 107-99 in an exhibition game in Omaha that was Chadron State’s season opener.