Home            Posts            SportsTicket           
Does anyone compete harder than MVP's Devin Rihanek
Mar 8, 2017

By Rich Winter

Even though the wins just kept piling up for Mt. Vernon/Plankinton this year, this blogger from Mission South Dakota kept glancing at the roster and wondering just how coach Eric Denning was getting it done with a bunch of 6-footers and the tallest guy on the team, Taylen Trisco, standing at just 6-foot-2.


After watching MVP dig out of a 10-point deficit by clawing and scratching their way back into the game, then making free-throws down the stretch and grabbing two impossibly important offensive rebounds, the 19 wins this season make a heck of a lot more sense.

Couple things stood out for me in the game:

1. Well coached - With seven seconds remaining in the game, leading 81-77, and having committed just five fouls, coach Denning instructed his guys to foul. To be honest, I wasn't thinking about it, hadn't really noticed but clearly this team does all the little things right and is aware of everything going on.

2. Execution of offense: Have seen a lot of guys and a lot of teams drive into the lane, throw caution to the wind, barge ahead and usually get called for the foul. So many times Tuesday night, MVP took the shot when it was there, stopped, spun and kicked it out for an open-three when the defense shifted.

3. Balanced scoring attack: Interesting to see everyone on the floor be able to put it on the floor and drive to the basket. Everyone, G's, F's, Center-ish, when given a lane took it. Find it interesting that six guys on the roster scored eight or more points on the night.

4. Holy crud those Rihanek kids are tough: Thought it interesting how well Dane Rihanek, the junior guard stroked it in the fist half. The young man lit it up early and carried the Titan scoring load in the first half with 16 points, finished with 20. Older brother, Devin Rihanek led all scorers with 26 points.


It was Devin Rihanek that caught the attention of the Panic Button. Listed at 5-foot-11, Rihanek showed some toughness, taking it inside for back-to-back hoops to start the third quarter. Pine Ridge led 40-36 at intermission, but Rihanek tied it up within a matter of moments. 


Caught up with MVP coach, Eric Denning this Wednesday afternoon and he raved about the young man from Plankinton that has a G.P.A of over 4.0. 


"I don't think I've ever had a kid that competed as hard as Devin," Denning said. "Whether it's in practice or in the game, all he does is compete."


The Titans, making their third-straight, state tournament appearance, found themselves in a dog fight with a scrappy Pine Ridge team that just wouldn't quit.


The Thorpes stretched a first-half lead to 38-26 on a Corey Brown finish. Undaunted, Dane Rihanek hit a trey, Cody Muilenburg hit a basket, Dane hit another trey and Muilenburg added a basket as MVP closed the half on a 10-2 run. 


With the game tied at 49, late in the third period, Pine Ridge closed the quarter on a 7-0 run and looked in charge, leading 56-49.


But MVP wasn't done competing!

Trailing 64-59 MVP scored a hoop, Dane Rihanek converted a tough finish after slithering down the lane and Jacob Clark buried a trey to give MVP a 65-64 lead with 3:55 remaining. 


Hayden Schmidt's tree stretched the lead to 68-64 and from there, all MVP did was execute, play defense, rebound, make free-throws and do all the little things that state tournament teams do. 


As hard as MVP competed, Pine Ridge gave it heck.

The Thorpes closed it to 76-74 with 21 seconds remaining and 79-77 with 11 seconds remaining, but all MVP did was make plays.


"We always seem like we compete pretty hard," Denning said. "We didn’t shoot the ball real well but we kept grinding and were persistent with what we do."


With a team known for strapping it up for anyone and everyone, Denning offered some thoughts on a gritty effort from Pine Ridge. 

"I wasn’t comfortable until the final buzzer sounded," Denning said. "Corey Brown uses his body so well and plays so big.  They are a very good basketball team and thought they competed just as hard as we normally do."


While MVP isn't big, Denning says his guys use a lot of ball pressure on the perimiter to keep it out of the post. And, while some look at being small, Denning turns it around and figures big guys from opposing teams have to come out and cover his bigs, all who are capable of running the floor. 


With this being the first time South Dakota has offered a Sweet-16, Denning, who first proposed the idea to the SDHSAA in 2007 said the atmosphere Tuesday was terrific and he thinks the change has brought some excitement to the state qualifying process. 


Only three losses on the year, Chamberlain and Dakota Valley (Both in the A tournament) and a 103-98 loss to Little Wound, Dennings squad hits the A tournament as the No. 5 seed, set to BATTLE, Sioux Falls Christian next Thursday afternoon.


Really good stuff MVP, that basketball was fun to watch!

  On Facebook
  On Twitter