Gardner steps down as coach

By Gray Hughes

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE — Hill City High School boys basketball coach Blake Gardner is stepping down. Here, Gardner is with his family, Aspen, Baylor, Witten, his wife Kati and Mercy, after his final game. [Submitted photo]

Hill City High School boys basketball coach Blake Gardner, who had coached the team for 13 years, has stepped down as head coach.

He is leaving the position due to his appointment as the Hill City School District’s superintendent.

“I still love the game of basketball and will continue to be help out any way possible, but everything in my life has revolved around basketball for the past 13 years,” Gardner said. “It is a good time to step down.”

Gardner was hired as the coach when he was 23.

Since then, he has become the winningest head coach in school history and was twice named regional coach of the year.

Gardner has also coached the four leading scorers in school history:  Andy Coy (1,248 points), Derek Skillingstad (1,062 points), Ryan Skillingstad (824 points) and Taylor Edwards (808 points).

“I didn’t just coach basketball, I coached kids,” Gardner said. “And I was extremely blessed to coach some amazing kids over the last 13 years.  The relationships I made will last my entire life. I love them like little brothers.”

Gardner also served as the South Dakota Coaches Association West River basketball representative for nine years, South Dakota Basketball Coaches Association regional director for 10 years and ran the Lil’ Rangers Basketball Camp, coached the South Dakota Heat AAU team for three summers and created the Black Hills Gold AAU team.

For all of their years of support, Gardner said he would like to thank his family, including his wife, Kati, and their four children, Witten, 4, Baylor, 3, Aspen, 2, and Mercy, 6 months.

“I am so blessed to have a wife that hauled my kids all over the Black Hills for 21 nights a year to watch basketball,” he said. “There is nothing harder than being a coaches wife. I am also blessed for all of the parents and community members that volunteered to hold a baby or take our kids to the concession stand. I love this school and community.”