On Saturday night, I had the pleasure of covering the Hanson Corn Palace Classic for the first time. (It only took me 21 years to have that weekend not have a home game for either Yankton or Mount Marty.)
The Crofton girls crossed the border to take on a team many consider to be the top girls’ basketball team in South Dakota, outside the AA ranks, St. Thomas More. Coming into the game, I felt that More’s length and athleticism could give Crofton fits, and it did early on. But Crofton pulled away in the second half for a 55-39 victory.
After seeing this very good matchup — it was a 5-point game entering the fourth quarter — and seeing the large Crofton contingent that made the trip to Mitchell for the game, I am hoping my good friends at Hanson will try to make Crofton’s visit an annual occurrence.
While more and more teams are taking advantage of the 2002 season switch — most kids in school now have never seen fall girls’ basketball or winter volleyball — to play outside the state limits, it is still a bit of a novelty. Yankton has not played an out-of-state varsity basketball game in years, and just under half of the 36 other high schools we cover play an out-of-state opponent in basketball. (And that was counting the Crofton boys’ game against a team from Australia last month.) Of the 19 schools that play out-of-state opponents in basketball, four only have a boys’ or girls’ game, but not both.
With the challenges of scheduling opponents, I think crossing the border would be a natural progression. I know not all our area schools will make this choice: schools like Parkston and Creighton are a ways from the border, though Parkston goes to Creighton for a wrestling tournament every year.
I have said on a few occasions that Yankton would make a great place for such a classic, bringing South Dakota and Nebraska teams together for matchups that fans would not see much elsewhere. With Yankton’s competition moratorium — YHS will not compete over the Christmas break — it would be a great way to draw fans into the Summit Center … or Cimpl Arena for that matter. MMC put on such a boys’ holiday classic when I first started at the paper, but it faded away in the late 90s.
Yankton would also be a great site for a good inter-state track meet, wrestling tournament or cross country meet. Golf would be hard because of the differences between the seasons in Nebraska and South Dakota. You see plenty of teams cross the border for the Roger Haas Tournament and the Yankton Soccer Invitational, so bringing school-sponsored teams here would be a logical next step.
The challenge, of course, would be finding a way to get schools to break away from their “traditional schedules.” A lot of schools go to the same events year after year, and starting a new event can be a challenge. But hopefully we’ll see some more inter-state showdowns in the future, event if they’re not in Yankton.