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Too close for comfort

Press Photo by Dustin Monke Dickinson State senior Ashley Emmons, left, is lifted by her teammates after the Blue Hawks defeated Valley City State 61-60 on Tuesday. Emmons hit a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left to win the game.

Ashley Emmons knew she had to try recreating her game-winning shot she made against Valley City State.

But, the Dickinson State senior's attempts to redo the heaving, off-balance 3-pointer from the right side of the court were futile and laughable.

In Wednesday's night's game, Emmons banked the odd-looking shot off the backboard and in to give the Blue Hawks a 61-60 victory.

"We messed around in practice and tried to redo it," Emmons said. "It was funny."

Even though Emmons couldn't connect on the practice shots, she has been nothing short of clutch in games. She's made two game-winners this season and has made countless big shots throughout her career.

Nonetheless, Emmons is about fed up with being forced into making game-winning shots.

"A lot of the ones that were close like that shouldn't have been -- take for example this last game," Emmons said.

While DSU coach Guy Fridley hopes his team doesn't have to take anymore shots in the final seconds to win games, he knows it's done nothing but help the Blue Hawks.

"When you come out on top, you're never sick of them," Fridley said. "But, in a nutshell, it's made us better."

Emmons beat both South Dakota Mines and VCSU with last-second shots and Kelly Pankratz's short jumper rolled in to beat Minot State. Ironically, all of the wins came at Scott Gymnasium.

The game-winners might not be bad practice either.

The Blue Hawks still have a chance to win the Dakota Athletic Conference regular season championship and have home-court advantage throughout the conference tournament.

"It's going to help us down the line because, come tournament time, that's all you're going to see is close games," Fridley said. "We're battle tested when it comes down to the close games."

A win over Jamestown College at 4 p.m. today would greatly help the 12th-ranked Blue Hawks (18-6, 9-2 DAC) reach their championship goal.

They currently hold a tiebreaker with sixth-ranked Black Hills State (21-5, 10-2 DAC). If both teams were to win the rest of their games in the regular season, DSU would be the No. 1 seed and BHSU would be No. 2 in the conference tournament.

DSU ends its regular season on the road against Mayville State and Dakota State next weekend while BHSU travels to Jamestown and VCSU.

Emmons said the team knows they all have to be clutch in order for them keep winning and capture the conference title. And she knows the 25th-ranked Jimmies (17-7, 7-4) -- who are still in the race for the regular-season title -- aren't going to be slouches. They beat DSU 74-56 on their home court on Jan. 18.

"Each game you play is the biggest game of the season," Emmons said. "This game has so many different stakes put on it. We have to win it."

Dustin Monke

Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins in 2014, as well as its national first-place honors for Community Leadership in the Inland Daily Press Association and contributed to the first-place Inland award for Investigative Reporting. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occasional Sunday column, is a member of The Press' Editorial Board, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and action movies, exercises whenever his schedule allows, and spends every minute he can with his wife and son.

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