Coyotes End Jackrabbits Magic at Summit Tourney
It's called March Madness for a reason, and a matinee on Monday afternoon between South Dakota State and South Dakota added to the month's pageantry.
South Dakota lost to South Dakota State in the women's championship game last year, and was 0-2 against the Jackrabbits this season.
SDSU, on the other hand, had never lost at the Arena in sixteen games at the Summit Tourney.
What would happen this year?
The magic continued for the Coyotes, and Jackrabbits dominant run came to a end.
Coming off a thrilling 96-94 win in the quarterfinals against Western Illinois, USD carried their momentum into Monday's match-up by knocking off the Jackrabbits, 72-58.
USD head coach Amy Williams talks about how her team was able to continue their surge into Tuesday's championship.
"Our kids are excited to still be playing, and then to go against the Jackrabbits, we were hoping for another opportunity to against that team. Today was the day, and we just felt like it was our time."
It was definitely the Coyotes time, as from the start, they were ready for the Jackrabbits.
In the first half, USD built an early lead by establishing a low post presence led by senior Polly Harrington. Harrington was like a magnet inside, making everything she put up, and grabbing offensive rebounds.
The Jackrabbits inched closer when senior Steph Paluch hit a three to make it 24-18, but USD's Bridget Arens answered with back-to-back buckets inside to go up 29-18.
Getting closer to halftime, the Jackrabbits continued to get frustrated on offense, and Arens was at it again. The freshman had a big basket, and then her second effort in the paint made it 37-23.
The Coyotes led the Jackrabbits 37-25 at half. SDSU had a chance to make it a ten-point game, but missed shots inside, and a bad pass was costly for the Jackrabbits. SDSU's poor shooting from the field didn't help (29.2% from field, 22.2% from long range), either.
SDSU chipped away at USD's lead early in second half. The Jackrabbits got within ten points, but Harrington was big, again, as the Coyotes built a 47-29 lead with about sixteen minutes in the game.
It was simple as this, the Coyotes were making shots, and the Jackrabbits were not, and even when SDSU did, USD answered. With about twelve minutes to go, Nicole Seekamp made it 54-31, and the Jackrabbits would have to make a run, sooner rather than later, if they were going to get back into the game.
The Jackrabbits did just that. Kerri Young made four straight points, and USD was making poor decisions. SDSU got within 56-43 with 7:50, thanks in part to a 12-2 run.
But this time, USD wasn't going to waver. At the 5:11 mark, Seekamp had a big drive, and the Coyotes lead was back up to 62-45. Megan Waytashek answered, but the rest of the way, the Jackrabbits couldn't finish at the basket.
When the final horn sounded, the Coyotes beat the Jackrabbits, 72-58, and their students where chanting, "Our house!"
Williams says it was pretty sweet to beat SDSU.
"It means a lot. It's something that a lot of our girls that are from this area kind of grew up understanding that rivalry and to be able to get this win against the champions of our league and reigning champions of this tournament, today was a big win for our program."
Seekamp paced USD with 19 points (13-of-14 from free throw line), while Harrington added 18 points. Arens had 12 points. Sophomore Tia Hemiller contributed eight points, but her presence at the point offensively, and defensively was an X-factor for Coyotes.
Leading the charge for SDSU was Wayteshek with 20 points. Paluch had 14 points, and Young, one their bright spots, had eight points.
SDSU's historic and magical run unfortunately came to a close, but next year will have a chance to start a new run at the new Events Center.
The Coyotes will play the Denver on Tuesday for Summit League Championship, have a chance to make the NCAA tournament in their second year in Division I.
On Tuesday, Williams hopes her team can continue to play great basketball.
"To play great defense, play for 40 minutes, continue to defend without fouling. Win the rebounding war, and we are going to have to make some shots."