SIOUX CITY, IOWA (KCAU) – With the final buzzer sounding and DV bringing home the state title, the Panthers program and community knew something special was brewing at Dakota Valley High School. With the team’s core group returning, it did not take long for the team to turn their focus to the upcoming season.

“During the car ride back, we just realized that if we really put our minds to it, we could do it. We just have to trust in each other and play together as a team,” Dakota Valley senior Sam Faldmo said.

Winning a state championship is a challenge within itself. But defending the title adds even more difficulty to the quest, with Dakota Valley head coach Jason Kleis speaking on the task and how his players responded to the challenge.

“We were trying to tell them how hard it’s going to be and how magical last year was and that does not come around very often. But, that did not deter our guys. They are a confident bunch and I think in their minds that they never wavered that we were going to do it again,” DV head coach Jason Kleis added.

Rather than shying away from the challenge, the Panthers took the opportunity in stride.

“The mindset didn’t change. I think all of our guys love basketball, love the game, want to be great, and they went to work,” Jason Kleis noted.

The Panthers tested themselves early on, participating in tournaments while facing teams from Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota; as Dakota Valley says they benefited against playing tough competition.

“I think since we knew that every team was going to be playing their best against us, we also just tried to prepare the best that we can and we got our mindset right and I feel like that really helped us win big against those teams,” Dakota Valley senior forward Sam Kleis emphasized.

DV did not just win, they thrived. The Panthers went 20-0 in the regular season, defeating their opponent by 20 or more points twelve times while their average margain of victory was 21 points. Dakota Wesleyan commit Randy Rosenquist Jr. became DV’s all-time assists leader while USD signee Isaac Bruns scored a single-game program-record 46 points and notched his 2,000th career point in the month of February, both solidifying their legacies.

“My brother was a passer. I learned a lot of my passing skills from him and even Chayce Montagne, who has always talked to me about being the assist leader and how I would never get to where he’s at. But, I knew I was going to get there one day. So when I finally did, he was one of the first people to text me. But, it means a lot that I was able to do that for this team,” Dakota Valley senior guard Randy Rosenquist Jr. said.

“All that hard work when no one is watching really does pay off in the end. Getting those awards is huge for me. But, it’s also huge for the rest of my teammates and stuff because if I played on another team or had a different coaching staff, I don’t think I would have gotten all the accolades I have,” Dakota Valley senior forward Isaac Bruns added.

During DV’s title defense quest, another opportunity presented itself. The Panthers were within reach of breaking the South Dakota Class A boys basketball win streak record, which was set by Custer in 1989 through 1991. With talk of the record swirling around Siouxland, the stakes of the ensuing games increased.

“Just trying to keep the streak alive and just working hard every practice and just knowing that every team is going to play their best game against us. There was a little bit of pressure there,” Dakota Valley senior forward Jaxon Hennies said.

This Dakota Valley squad exemplified what it meant to play together. With that bond coming to light ahead of their game at Sioux City West. Randy’s father, Randy Rosenquist Sr., also known as “Big Rosie” suffered a stroke that required surgery. With the news, the Panthers quickly came to the support of their teammate in a time of need. DV debuted warmup shirts that read ‘All In For Big Rosie’, as the team showed support for the Rosenquist family and a man the players felt made an impact in their lives.

“When I first saw it, I didn’t know it was happening. So when I first saw them, I kind of just sank down and started getting a little teary-eyed because I didn’t know they were doing that for me. I was happy, but I was also a little sad because it made me think about what’s been going on,” Rosenquist Jr. said.

“Randy’s like a brother to me. I love him to death and just seeing everyone support him like that. It’s awesome,” Faldmo highlighted.

The shirts and the words written on Randy’s shoes stayed with the team heading into the postseason, giving the team a little extra motivation as they embarked on their journey through the playoffs.

Link to the GoFundMe page set up for “Big Rosie”: