Regional Tough: South Prairie boys looking for first regional berth in ‘22
On the heels of a second heartbreaking defeat in the Region 6 play-in game in as many seasons, South Prairie boys’ basketball head coach Jordan Cooper and his staff threw a twist into their after-school practices.
“We’ve been having a couple of drills at the end of practice this year, we call them ‘regional tough,'” Cooper said.
Aptly named, the drills’ distinct purpose is, naturally, to better help the Royals learn to overcome the challenge of crucial late-season games. The exercises are concocted in such a way that the athletes will not succeed in their first handful of attempts.
When they eventually do, the hope is, according to Cooper, that they have only increased their mental and physical toughness that day. The product, in turn, is another step toward South Prairie’s goal to become more prepared and equipped to finally get over the hump and crack the Region 6 tournament bracket for the first time in program history.
“They’re mentally and physically challenging for the kids, and I think they get excited about it,” Cooper continued. “There’s certain goals and time limits and stuff like that that we put on these drills, and that’s really our goal. We want to make it to a region tournament.”
Cooper pointed to one of the Royals’ most recent drills when the team was tasked with successfully finishing 80 full-court layups in two minutes, using just five basketballs. The assignment served as an exercise in teamwork and the Royals eventually completed the drill.
“One of our philosophies is who are we when things don’t go our way, who are we when we get frustrated?” Cooper added. “It’s easy to get frustrated and blame others rather than leaning on each other. Hopefully those drills can help us get to that next level.”
Whether the practice tactic will successfully lead South Prairie to a history-making regional tournament berth remains to be seen, but it has already aided in paying dividends for the Royals in the early portion of their 2021-22 campaign.
South Prairie has begun the new season with wins in five of its first seven contests entering its Jan. 17 tilt against the Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood Mavericks, with Lance Pitner leading the charge on both ends of the floor.
“He’s our engine. As he goes, we go,” Cooper said of his senior forward. “When we got a dude on the other team that we need to keep an eye on, we always put Lance on him.”
Pitner, in his second season with the Royals’ varsity squad, has taken ownership of his team after learning the ropes from South Prairie’s nine seniors throughout the 2020-21 slate. He is averaging close to 4.5 steals per game to start the year and has produced just under 16 points per game in his last five appearances.
Carter Korslien has complemented his teammate well, coming in second in the Royals’ last five games to Pitner with nine points and second to Cameron Sys’ 8.2 rebounds per game with seven of his own. Sys produced an especially impressive effort on the glass during South Prairie’s Dec. 20 matchup with Westhope/Newburg with 18 total rebounds.
“We start and try to end the season as much as we can defensively minded, because we know that’s the one thing we can control,” Cooper noted. “Shots are going to go in, they’re going to go out, night in, night out, but there’s one thing that we can hang our hats on is that defensive attitude. Defense is a decision and that’s really what we preach.”
As the Royals enter a more welcoming stretch with three of their next five games on home court following their meeting with the Mavericks, a larger focus on putting together four complete quarters of basketball is at the forefront of Cooper and his staff’s minds with the postseason inching closer.
“We’re really excited to have a lot of district games at home,” Cooper said. “We’re starting to really build a student body that really invests and has a lot of fun by staying out. It’s not really that easy though. At 12 miles out of town, a lot of the kids, if they live in Minot they don’t want to really come back out, so it’s really good to see that we get the crowds that we do. Hopefully that will help our momentum going forward.”