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Dickinson State Blue Hawks women's’ basketball starts out NSAA Tournament with blowout victory over Viterbo

After plateauing midway through the season, Dickinson State had been looking for the fire that had earned the Blue Hawks a national ranking. DSU showed that spark from the tipoff Wednesday night. The No. 24-ranked and second-seeded Blue Hawks sta...

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Dickinson State sophomore forward Ashley Bentz, left, drives against Viterbo junior guard Bailey Klaas Wednesday at Scott Gymnasium in the Blue Hawks’ 83-49 victory over the V-Hawks in the North Star Athletic Association Tournament quarterfinals. (Colton Pool/The Dickinson Press)

After plateauing midway through the season, Dickinson State had been looking for the fire that had earned the Blue Hawks a national ranking.

DSU showed that spark from the tipoff Wednesday night.

The No. 24-ranked and second-seeded Blue Hawks started the North Star Athletic Association Tournament quarterfinals on a 21-6 run to defeat seventh-seeded Viterbo 83-49 at Scott Gymnasium. The win means DSU will play third-seeded Valley City State (18-9), which the Blue Hawks split with in their two regular-season games.

“It’s kind of been a rollercoaster ride. I think we played really well early on in the season, and then there were a lot of bumps and bruises along the way in the middle,” said junior guard Taylor Henningsgard, who led DSU with a game-high five assists. “I think we’re finally playing to our potential now, so that’s exciting.”

The Blue Hawks (22-7) began with a full-court press defense that led to several turnovers and fast-break scoring opportunities. That aggressiveness on the defensive end built their 21-6 lead in the first 7 minutes of the game. Though Viterbo (6-23) closed the gap down to 12 points by the end of the opening quarter, DSU pushed for a 20-point halftime lead, 49-29.

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DSU junior forward Leslie Beaudoin scored 13 of her 15 points by halftime.

“We were just going to go after them,” Blue Hawks head coach Mark Graupe said. “We were going to press them and we had some success with that at La Crosse, Wis., against Viterbo the first time where they didn’t handle our pressure.”

Senior forward Janniqua Thomas scored a game-high 25 points while hitting 10 of 14 shots to go with seven rebounds. Thomas and junior center Megan Klein, who had eight rebounds, led DSU to a 52-36 advantage on the boards.

That, Viterbo head coach Bobbi Vandenberg said, was one of the V-Hawks’ keys to the game.

Another was limiting turnovers, and the Blue Hawks forced Viterbo into 25 turnovers and stole the ball 18 times - Beaudoin totaled a game-high four steals.

“We know what a good team they are. I really respect them a lot,” Vandenberg said. “They’re very talented, physical, can shoot it, they’ve got big kids, they’re very athletic, so they’ve kind of got everything you need to be a top-25 team.”

In the first half, senior center Whitney Hanson, who leads Viterbo with 8.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, went down with an injury, forcing Vandenberg to go deeper into her already injury-riddled rotation.

And that didn’t make things any easier for the V-Hawks.

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“We felt like we were short-handed to begin with, and we felt like we needed to match their athleticism and physicality,” Vandenberg said. “That didn’t help, but on the other hand, we still didn’t take care of the ball well enough or rebound well enough.”

The Blue Hawks refused to let up and outscored the V-Hawks 18-14 in the third quarter. DSU then only allowed Viterbo to score six points in the final quarter while scoring 16 points with mostly bench players.

“It feels good. We had one goal going into tonight, and that was advance into the next round,” Beaudoin said. “If we were to accomplish that goal, we knew defense was going to be the way to do it. So we played good D and thankfully we’re moving on.”

The Blue Hawks now focus on VCSU, which beat No. 6-seeded Presentation College 88-60 on Wednesday.

DSU beat the Vikings 63-55 on Jan. 30 at Scott Gym and lost 75-65 on Feb. 10 in Valley City. If the Blue Hawks are victorious on Friday, they will play the winner of No. 9-ranked and first-seeded University of Jamestown (27-4) and No. 4 seed Mayville State (16-12).

But Graupe said he heard some talk about Friday’s game even before Wednesday, and he was quick to rearrange the focus to the task at hand.

And that, Graupe said, will be the case once again for VCSU.

“We have some challenges now on Friday,” Graupe said. “Why we’ve won the home-court advantage is because we’ve been good at home, and we need Valley City at home.”

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VU               13    29    43    49

DSU            25    49    67    83

VU (6-23): Britney Hattamer 3-13 1-5 7, Kassi Hofschild 2-4 0-0  4, Lauren Busse 20-10 3-4 9, Arissa Geiser 5-9 2-5 12, Heidi Heubner 5-10 0-0 13, Courtney Wahl 0-2 2-5 2, Cecilia Mendoza 0-0 2-2 2. Totals: 17-55 10-21 49.

DSU (22-7): Megan Klein 2-6 4-6 8, Janniqua Thomas 10-14 5-5 25, Lorna Shepherd 2-9 1-1 6, MacKayla Feeney 1-6 1-2 3, Taylor Henningsgard 2-2 2-2 7, Leslie Beaudoin 7-10 0-0 15, Paitton Herbst 1-4 0-0 2, Payton Schieffer 0-1 0-0 0, Alyssa Hildebrand 0-1 0-0 0, Ashley Bentz 3-5 0-0 6, Kara Glor 0-1 0-0 0, Rachael McDonough 1-2 0-0 3, Tess Blaquiere 1-5 0-0 2, Sydney Bentz 0-3 0-0 0, Jalyn Klauzer 3-6 0-0 6. Totals: 33-75 13-16 83.

Total fouls: VU 14, DSU 21. Fouled out: VU, Geiser. 3-point goals: VU 5-20 (Hattamer 0-1, Hofschild 0-1, Klaas 0-3, Busse 2-7, Geiser 0-1, Huebner 3-7), DSU 4-12 (Shepherd 1-2, Feeney 0-3, Henningsgard 1-1, Beaudoin 1-1, Herbst 0-1, A. Bentz 0-2, McDonough 1-1, S. Bentz 0-1). Rebounds: VU 36 (Hattamer 8), DSU 52 (Klein 8). Assists: VU 10 (Klaas 4), DSU 18 (Henningsgard 5). Steals: VU 5 (five tied with 1), DSU 18 (Beaudoin 4). Blocks: VU 0, DSU 4 (Klein 2). Turnovers: VU 25, DSU 14.

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