Road to the top

Drue Aman

Drue Aman

Jacks advance to NCAAs for second consecutive year

The Jacks started their 2009-2010 season with a thrilling overtime win. Nearly four months later, they needed five more minutes and just as many thrills again.

Five more minutes to do what no other team has done: make the NCAA tournament in the first two years of eligibility.

SDSU staved off a fierce Oral Roberts full-court press in the final minutes of regulation and in overtime, winning 79-75 in front 5,460 fans to claim the Summit League title in the Sioux Falls Arena on March 9. Oral Roberts had prevented the Jacks from scoring in the last 3:42 in the second half, going on a 9-0 run to send the game to overtime – the first Summit League women’s championship game to do so.

“We really survived at the end,” said Jacks head coach Aaron Johnston, who is now 6-0 at the Summit League Tournament. “It’s exactly where we wanted to be and the crowd was into it, but we just had a couple of lapses on the offensive end and turned it over a couple of times.”

Up until the four-minute mark of the second half, the Jacks played akin to their style, accumulating 13 3-pointers which tied the tournament record set by the Jacks in their quarterfinal win against IPFW. They also turned the ball over 26 times, 17 of those coming in the second-half and five in the last four minutes.

“I think we started to play on our heels a little bit,” said Yankton native Ketty Cornemann. “We weren’t the aggressors like we had been the whole entire game. We relaxed a little too much and weren’t taking care of the ball.”

In the overtime period, eight of the Jacks’ 10 overtime points came from the free-throw line, including two pivotal ones that extended the lead to four points from junior Jennifer Schuttloffel.

A win against any opponent in a championship setting is a triumph, but especially against a team the Jacks were swept by in the regular season – and both by an average of ten points. As Summit League Champions, the Jacks earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

“We’re in the tournament, and that’s about all we know,” said Johnston. “It’ll be nice to get away from basketball for a little bit.”

The Jacks look ahead to the tournament that that they entered last year with a resounding win and left with a crushing defeat.

But for now, senior Maria Boever relishes the moment and historical value with everyone, especially the teammates she calls friends.

“We did this for us,” said Boever.

Jacks out match Leathernecks, advance to finals

One week later, same opponent, same result.

SDSU – facing Western Illinois for the second time in one week – ended the Leathernecks’ season with 67-39 in their semifinal matchup at the Sioux Falls Arena March 8. The Jacks then advanced to the championship of the Summit League Tournament.

During the game, Jacks junior guard Kristin Rotert became the third current member of the roster to score her 1,000th point, draining two free throws to eclipse the mark reached by two other teammates this season and 27 other players in the program’s history.

“I had a lot of friends and family here,” said Rotert, who needed just two points entering the game and got them in less than five minutes. “I was just hoping to make the free throws and that was it.”

As was the case against IPFW, the Jacks used the opening minutes to jump to a double-digit lead and force a Western Illinois timeout. SDSU led by 16 with nearly three minutes left in the first-half, but a late Leathernecks run shrunk the lead to just 11 at half-time. It was the smallest point-margin they had the rest of the game.

In the second half, the Jacks boosted their lead to 17 points with back-to-back 3-pointers from Ketty Cornemann and Rotert. Western Illinois turned the ball over 11 times while the Jacks attempted nearly twice as many shots from the floor in the final 20-minutes of the game.

SDSU routs IPFW behind hot shooting

Expectations were expressed, tickets sold, television deals signed and roads driven to see how the Jackrabbits could defend last season’s tournament championship and NCAA Tournament run.

All evidence after their first-round rout indicated they could do it.

The Jacks exploded in the final 25 minutes while IPFW sensed nothing could be done, as the Jacks won 93-52 in front of 5,386 fans – a record for a women’s quarterfinal matchup – at the Sioux Falls Arena on March 7.

Once the team let loose, the 61-point offensive effort in the second half was not miraculous.

“You could definitely see with the shots we took we were a little tight (in the first half),” said junior Kristin Rotert, who finished with 17 of her team’s 93 points. “We got the same shots all game. Once we started making them, we really got rolling.”

The game was not a 40-minute shooting exhibition for the Jackrabbits. With a little under six minutes in the first-half, the Mastodons appeared evenly matched and entrenched in a defensive-oriented game. During that time, the Jacks only managed to shoot 2-of-9 from the field and hold a two-point lead, but a 12-0 run over the next three minutes stretched the lead to double-digits.

Then from the first inbound of the second half, the Jacks were in control, making their first seven shots of the half including a trio of 3-pointers from Ketty Cornemann within the first two minutes. The deficit reached 27 by the time IPFW coach Chris Paul signaled a time-out.

“I didn’t anticipate them to shoot the way they did in the second half,” said Paul. “If they shoot 8-of-11 from 3s throughout this season, they’re the number one seed, not the three seed.”