Women look for redemption in Sioux Falls


Abby Fullenkamp


Carson Herbert

The last time the South Dakota State women’s basketball team played at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, it suffered a heartbreaking 65-61 overtime loss against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the 2017 Summit League Tournament semifinals.

It was only the second time in the last nine years the Jacks were not able to win the tournament.

This weekend, the Jacks (23-6, 12-2) are looking to redeem themselves and take back the crown. SDSU is the No. 2 seed and will face North Dakota State University at 2:30 p.m. March 3. Junior guard Macy Miller believes the team can move on from last year’s disappointment.

“No one wants to lose in the Summit League Tournament,” Miller said. “That hurt losing in the semifinals last year since we were used to playing in the championship, but our expectations are high this year.”

Head coach Aaron Johnston thinks the past won’t affect the team this year.

“I think we are pretty fired up to play, regardless of past success and past failures,” he said.

Junior guard Madison Guebert and senior forward Ellie Thompson both scored in double digits in the two tournament games last year and will likely lead the team once again this year.

Miller, the tournament’s most valuable player in 2016 and the Summit League’s leading scorer during the 2017-18 season, will be the weapon the Jacks were missing last year, as she suffered an ACL injury earlier in the regular season.

“I think experience helps, but really, you have to play well on the day you play,” Johnston said. “It depends on if you can get your mind in a place where you can execute and have the confidence that it takes to perform well.”

Freshman forward Myah Selland said the big games during the regular season will help those who haven’t played in the tournament yet.

“This is what we worked for all season,” Selland said. “We’ve had quite a few big games with big atmospheres throughout the season, so to be able to have those under our belt will help come Saturday.”

But while the Jacks had a strong regular season, they will be looking up in the bracket to the team that gave them their only two losses in conference play.

South Dakota enters the tournament with the top seed. The Coyotes have not lost a game in conference play this season and will be the biggest test for SDSU if the two teams meet in the championship game.

“I think that it’s unique that you’ve got both South Dakota teams playing really well in both men’s basketball and women’s basketball,” Johnston said. “The local interest will be really high with all four teams playing on Saturday.”

Before anyone can look at a possible third matchup between the two in-state rivals, both teams will need to win in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Miller said the team isn’t going to take any game lightly.

“Everyone is going to play their best and any team can get hot in the Summit League Tournament so we can’t overlook anyone,” she said. “We’ve been playing our best recently at the end of the regular season so we need to continue that into the tournament.”

The Jacks are trying to defeat NDSU for the third time this season and beat them by more than 20 points in the first two games.

“We have to be disruptive defensively,” Johnston said. “They are a pretty good offensive team so we can’t let them get into a flow on offense. They are big and physical so we will have to find ways to score inside. That’s been a big part of our success lately.”

The winner of the SDSU and NDSU game will face the winner of Western Illinois and Omaha at 2:30 p.m. March 5 in Sioux Falls.