Khalif Bettis

Junior Khalif Bettis leads Burnsville in scoring through seven games averaging 21 points per game.

It took some time, but the Burnsville boys basketball team finally got a win for their new coach.

Burnsville avoided a winless 2021 with a 77-68 home victory over Simley Dec. 23. The victory snapped the program’s 27-game losing streak which dated back to Feb. 24, 2020.

Last winter, Jonte Flowers took over the Blaze program. The season didn’t start until Jan. 14 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Burnsville struggled to an 0-19 campaign.

The Blaze opened this season with six straight losses before getting their first win under Flowers over Simley. Junior Khalif Bettis scored a game-high 24 points to lead the way, while senior Henry Saykeo finished with 19 points and senior Gage Bakke scored 13.

Sophomore Jeremy Sherlock chipped in nine points, while sophomore Henry Buchanan had eight.

Flowers took over a Burnsville program last year that had 11 straight losing seasons. It’s been a tough rebuild, especially in the strong South Suburban Conference, where three teams are ranked, No. 2 Shakopee, No. 5 Eastview and No. 8 Lakeville North.

Burnsville dropped their first SSC game this season, falling 85-56 at Farmington Dec. 21. Bettis led the team in the loss with 21 points, while Saykeo scored 14. Junior Niles Hatting scored six.

Flowers knows how to win. As a player at Winona State University, he led the Warriors to Division II national crowns in 2006 and 2008 and a runner-up finish in 2007.

Flowers finished his career at Winona State as the all-time steals leader in Division II history with 414. That mark still stands, and he’s ranked second in career steals for all three levels of NCAA men’s basketball.

Flowers also played professionally in Europe for 11 years in many different countries — Sweden, France, Finland, Italy, Romania, Lithuania and Poland. Back in 2020, Flowers was inducted into the Winona State Athletic Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, Burnsville finished 0-18 in the SSC last year, and was just 4-14 the year before. Over the last 11 seasons, Burnsville has a 42-156 mark in league play, so it’s been a tough decade.

Despite a losing record, the Blaze made it to the Section 3AAAA title game in 2019, but fell 82-64 to Eastview. The Blaze have lost in the section quarterfinals the last two seasons.

Burnsville’s last section title came in 2008. They also made the state field in 2004 where they lost to Chaska in the Class 4A title game.

Eastview is the Section 3AAAA favorite this winter. Bloomington Jefferson, Eagan, Apple Valley, Rosemount, Park and Hastings are also in the field.

The Blaze faced one section opponent so far, falling 79-46 to Jefferson Dec. 14. Saykeo scored 26 points in the loss, while Bettis had 10 and Buchanan scored five.

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.

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