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'Any team can beat any team' - Blue Hawks prepare to face Comets, Vikings on the road

While the team and coaches have echoed the phrase before, the Dickinson State women's basketball team's win over Mayville State proved it: anybody can beat anybody.

Dickinson State freshman forward Danielle Wallace gets a touch on a jump ball against Valley City State senior forward Alli Vandal on Friday, Jan. 18, at Scott Gym. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
Dickinson State freshman forward Danielle Wallace gets a touch on a jump ball against Valley City State senior forward Alli Vandal on Friday, Jan. 18, at Scott Gym. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

While the team and coaches have echoed the phrase before, the Dickinson State women's basketball team's win over Mayville State proved it: anybody can beat anybody.

Going into the contest, the Comets were second in the North Star Athletic Association with a conference record of 5-1, while the Blue Hawks were 2-4 against NSAA teams.

The visitors led for most of the way, but the Blue Hawks mounted a rally, outscoring the Comets 23-9 in the final quarter. With seven seconds left, a 3-pointer from junior guard Ashlie Larson put the home team up 52-51 before going on to win 54-51 at Scott Gym, on Saturday, Jan. 19.

"Honestly, I about fainted four times," senior guard Lacey Waid said of the exhilarating victory. "It was so great and so intense and so exciting. It was awesome."

Making the win more impressive is the fact that Mayville State is averaging nearly 70 points per game, yet were held to just 51.

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"I give a lot of credit to our win that night to our defense," Dickinson State head coach Liz Lewis said. "We have some kids that are healthy this year that just weren't last year. We have kids that are bought in, believe in the same thing. We talk about it all the time, everyone being all in. That's why it's a long season, it's a process. I give a lot of our wins to our intensity in practice and battling everyday and loving the struggle and loving the process."

The Blue Hawks were excellent in transition, matching Mayville's strength, led by senior forward Rojin Karahan, a returner from Lewis' first year at the helm.

"She's just doing an excellent job locking in on their best players and holding them under their scoring average," Lewis said. "Every game that we've won is because she's done that."

While the defense has been steady, offense is where the Blue Hawks have made the biggest improvements over last season.

In the 2017-18 campaign, Dickinson State averaged just 52 points per game, while allowing

72. This year, the Blue Hawks allow 71, but put up 63 points per game. Against conference teams, they allow 74, but score 66.

Those averages rang true in Friday's loss to Valley City State as the Vikings won 75-63.

The conference win over the Comets was Dickinson State's third of the season, giving them three more NSAA victories than last year, when the Blue Hawks went 0-16 on that front. The women in blue and gray have won three of their last four conference games at home and dropped three on the road thus far.

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With its current record of 10-12 and 3-4 in conference play, Dickinson State sits in fifth in NSAA standings, one spot away from hosting a home playoff game. Additionally, the team's 10 wins is already double what they earned last season when Dickinson State went 5-24.

Coming up next for the Blue Hawks, is another bout with Mayville State (11-6, 5-2 NSAA), just six days removed from their win, but this time in Comets territory. On Saturday, Dickinson State will travel to take on the Vikings (9-9, 6-1 NSAA) for the second time in as many weeks.

Lewis said the team is working on two things leading up to the rematches: carrying confidence into the games, and scoring inside.

Three-pointers have become a prominent weapon for the team, as senior guard Riley Helmick has 49 on the season, the second-most in the league, while Larson has 48, good for the third-most.

After the end of Lewis' first season behind the Blue Hawks bench, five players kept the faith and returned to the hardwood this year: Waid, Helmick, Karahan, sophomore guard Natalee Hafer and the injured senior guard Chelsey Borden.

With seven new additions, four being freshmen, it took a while to find a groove together, but Waid said team chemistry is a strength for the team. Waid, who Lewis dubbed the team's 'hype-man' named consistency as a weakness.

"We need to pull off a full 40 minutes and play our game a full 40 minutes," Waid said of what needs to change this time around. "Sometimes we're a little inconsistent with that, but once we get the whole 40 minutes down, we'll be golden."

While Dickinson State has occasional nights where it scores 24, 23 and 22 points in the first quarter and 14 in the fourth, like they did in an 83-74 loss to Dakota State (S.D.), the team is actually quite consistent. Through seven conference games, the Blue Hawks earn just over 16 points in the first two quarters, 15.8 in the third and 18.4 points in the final frame.

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"I tell my girls that any team can beat any team any night," Lewis said. "It doesn't matter who it is. it doesn't matter who your opponent is; you have to come out ready to go. It is a little bit interesting seeing each other back to back so quickly ... so we have to be ready for a completely different ball game."

Dickinson State senior guard Lacey Waid battles for a loose ball in a game against Valley City State on Friday, Jan. 18, at Scott Gym. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
Dickinson State senior guard Lacey Waid battles for a loose ball in a game against Valley City State on Friday, Jan. 18, at Scott Gym. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

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