Jacks season comes to end, future looks bright

A season full of adversity for the South Dakota State women’s basketball team came to an end Sunday after the Jacks fell to Colorado 81-75 in overtime at Frost Arena in the second round of the WNIT.

“I thought at times we played well and at times we weren’t as sharp as we need to be,” SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said. “Colorado played great. Their length was very disruptive and forced us into 18 turnovers and pressured us outside our normal comfort zone.”

Finishing the season 23-9, SDSU’s largest lead was 13 in the first half, before Colorado used a 14-2 run to cut the lead to 29-28 at the half. 

Colorado would then lead 58-45 with 6:23 left in the game. The Jacks would come all the way back to tie the game at 63 and had a chance to win the game with two shots in the final three seconds, but missed them both. In overtime, Colorado jumped out to a 71-65 lead and did not look back.

The Jacks came into this season with high expectations, as they were returning all of their starters. However, they faced a challenge when their leading scorer, Macy Miller, went down with a torn ACL.

Coach Johnston said he thought they played well throughout the year and overcame injuries.

“It was a really productive year for us and it was literally five or six possessions away from being special,” Johnston said. “After Christmas, we lost five really close basketball games that we could have won and had chances to win. Had a basket gone in, or got one more stop we would’ve won. That, sometimes, is the difference between a special year and a great year. But, I think we had a great year.”

The Jacks will lose guard Kerri Young and center Clarissa Ober to graduation. Both players contributed immensely to the team. Coach Johnston thinks they will be tough to replace.

“They were really a big part of what we do. Clarissa was one of the best defensive players we’ve ever had here. 

She blocks shots and changes the game defensively unlike any other player around,” Johnston said. 

Johnston believes that Young was just so well-rounded. 

“Everything on the court, she could do. From making three’s to getting to the basket. She did an awful lot to make us a better team,” Johnston said.

Johnston added that both of them are going to leave lasting legacies in the program.

Young finished her career 14th on the Jackrabbit scoring list with 1,370 points, including 17 against Colorado. She also scored a career-high 28 points against Northern Illinois in the first round of WNIT. She averaged a career-best 13.9 points a game during her senior season.

Ober finished her career ranked third in both career blocks with 127 and blocks per game with 1.27. She finished her season averaging 10.1 points a game and 1.7 blocks per game. 

The Jacks will get Macy Miller back for the 2017-18 season. Miller was this year’s preseason Summit League Player of the Year this season and was averaging 14.9 points per game before her injury. Johnston said her recovery is going well.

“Her rehab is ahead of schedule and she’s got a really upbeat attitude about it and works really hard at it. So her recovery is coming along nicely,” Johnston said.

As the team looks forward to next season, Johnston said the expectations will be high, just like they always are. 

“There will be some things we have to improve on,” Johnston said. “I think we have to improve on our depth. I think we have to continue to develop the players that didn’t play that much this year and help them be more comfortable with how they contribute. I think we have to alter our style. This year we went inside and used good post play. Next year we’ll have to go inside but then also use perimeter play.”

Coming into this season, the Jacks had gone to the NCAA Tournament seven out of the last eight seasons. Those are the types of expectations Johnston is talking about.

“All in all, I think we’ll have a really good team and there should be high expectations for us,” Johnston said.