Women claim four straight titles

Spencer Chase


For the fourth time in as many years, the Jacks are dancing.

SDSU eliminated a 17-point first-half deficit to force overtime and punch their ticket to a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance with a 78-77 overtime victory over UMKC at the Sioux Falls Arena on March 6.

To say the first half was all UMKC might be an understatement. UMKC scored the first nine points, pulled down 10 more rebounds than the Jacks and went into the locker room with a nine point lead. UMKC dominated virtually every statistical category in the first half and SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said that the game was almost decided at that point.

“That last three minutes we went on an 11-3 run,” Johnston said. “Without that run, we certainly don’t come back.”

Highlighted by three-pointers from Jill Young and Gabby Boever, the Jacks finished the half with a run and entered the second half down 27-36. The Jacks started with the ball in the second half, and began playing like a completely different team. Starting the half with a 9-3 run largely fueled by Leah Dietel, the Jacks were able to keep themselves in what would prove to be a highly competitive basketball game.

“(Dietel) hasn’t gotten enough credit for this particular game. (She) has never been a big offensive player, but she had nine points, probably the biggest nine points of her season so far,” Johnston said.

Jill Young scored the go-ahead points with two free throws with seven seconds left.

“I just had to go to the line with confidence. I’ve shot a lot of free throws in my life, so there wasn’t any doubt or hesitation in my mind,” Young said.

Johnston said Tara Heiser played well starting in place of the injured Steph Paluch, who could frequently be seen cheering enthusiastically from the bench.

“She wasn’t 100 percent by any means,” Johnston said. “She played great. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Tara too.”

Jennie Sunnarborg was named the Summit League Tournament MVP, finishing the game with 12 points and nine rebounds. Sunnarborg and Young, who tied with Ashley Eide for the team high in points, were named to the All-Tournament team. Johnston said that the Jacks’ two seniors have left a sizable impression on the face of the program.

“Legacy is a great word for those seniors,” Johnston said. “Four times … that is unbelievable. It’s easy to describe how difficult it is to get to an NCAA Tournament, and to get to four is just unbelievable.”

For UMKC, Dayon Hall-Jones led all scorers with 23 points, and Kim Nezianya scored 15 points and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. Hall-Jones and Nezianya were also named to the All- Tournament team.

Down one with seven seconds left, Hall-Jones drove down the floor largely uncontested until she reached the lane.

“I felt that I did maybe get a little bump, but the ball didn’t go in and that’s just it,” she said after the game. “I know that refs aren’t going to make that call at the end of the game … the ball didn’t go in the hole, and that’s the end of the story.”

Nevertheless, SDSU is heading back to the big bracket.

“I can’t say I would have thought of (four straight appearances),” Sunnarborg said. “Our program has advanced every single year since I’ve been here as a freshman. It’s just exciting.”