Dickinson State women's basketball secures NSAA title game berth
Janniqua Thomas was deathly nervous. In his 30 years of coaching against NCAA Division I Final Four-caliber teams, it was the most worried Mark Graupe had ever been.The Dickinson State senior and head women's basketball coach were worried because...
Janniqua Thomas was deathly nervous.
In his 30 years of coaching against NCAA Division I Final Four-caliber teams, it was the most worried Mark Graupe had ever been.
The Dickinson State senior and head women’s basketball coach were worried because their season was on the line in front of a crowded Scott Gymnasium.
But that anxiety didn’t show one bit from the opening tipoff of the Blue Hawks’ game Friday.
No. 24-ranked and second-seeded DSU delivered the first punch with a 23-8 first quarter before running away with an 83-56 victory over No. 3-seeded Valley City State in the North Star Athletic Association semifinals to advance to the championship game.
The Blue Hawks (23-7) will visit No. 9-ranked and top-seeded University of Jamestown (28-4) on Sunday in the conference title game for an automatic berth into the NAIA Division II national tournament. The game will be in Jamestown, though a time has yet to be determined.
“All of us were nervous,” said Thomas, a DSU senior forward who scored a game-high 20 points. “We just became the aggressor instead of them being the aggressor against us.
“I was crying before I was so nervous.”
DSU didn’t show much emotion other than determination and elation in its rematch with VCSU (18-10). After beating the Vikings 63-55 on Jan. 30, the Blue Hawks had lost 75-67 on Feb. 10 in Valley City. That made DSU nervous to the point of utter silence in the locker room before the game.
But the Blue Hawks came out to a noisy Scott Gym and found a spark from the get-go.
Though she didn’t have an opinion about how the conference coaches voted DSU the No. 2 seed despite the Vikings having one more conference victory, VCSU head coach Jill DeVries said the DSU support did make an impact.
“The home crowd was extremely important tonight,” DeVries said. “They made the difference. There’s no doubt about it. I’ve been in big games myself as a player and as a coach, and it can be a significant contributor to success.”
DSU went on a 12-4 run in the first 5 minutes of the game but then kept firing to take the 15-point lead before the second quarter. DSU extended the lead to 40-19 by halftime.
The Blue Hawks shot 5 of 8 from 3-point range in the first quarter and ended the first half shooting 7 of 14 from beyond the arc.
Sophomore forward Ashley Bentz was 2 of 6 from 3-point range and 4 of 8 from the field for a first-half 10 points in what ended up being a 15-point night.
Junior guard MacKayla Feeney, who had ranked in the top 25 in NAIA Division II in 3-pointers per game before a shooting slump in the second half of the season, went 3 of 5 from 3-point range in the first half for nine points and finished with 14 points. She shot 5 of 10 from the field while going 4 for 7 from beyond the 3-point line.
“It felt awesome,” Feeney said. “Yeah, shooters go on their streaks, but you’ve just got to keep shooting.”
But even after the first half, the Blue Hawks refused to let up and went on a 20-11 run over the first 7 minutes of the second half to take a 60-30 lead - and Scott Gym seemingly rocked with every DSU bucket.
“We said we must win the second half,” Graupe said. “We wanted the third quarter of our lives - the best third quarter of the year is what we said.”
Though DSU now faces the Jimmies, who won both regular-season matchups by double-digits, the Blue Hawks are relieved just to be moving on.
“I’m so excited. I’ve never been to a championship game in my life, so it means a lot,” Feeney said. “Coming off a win like that, it just gives you more motivation to go out and beat Jamestown.”
VCSU 8 19 37 56
DSU 23 40 64 83
VCSU (18-10): Courtney Dixon 3-8 0-0 6, Mackenzie Huber 1-3 1-3 3, Lexi Lennon 3-9 1-2 8, Sara Schwanke 1-8 2-2 4, Georgia Williams 4-10 0-0 9, Nisja Bass 1-2 2-2 4, Paige Meyer 1-1 0-0 3, Hannah Schlecht 0-2 0-0 0, Alli Vandal 4-7 3-4 11, Kaitlin 1-1 0-0 2, Tracie Boehmlehner 1-2 0-0 3, Rae Beaver 0-1 0-0 0, Nya Chakin 1-3 1-2 3. Totals: 21-57 10-15 56.
DSU (23-7): Megan Klein 1-6 0-0 2, Janniqua Thomas 8-13 4-4 20, Lorna Shepherd 2-4 0-0 5, MacKayla Feeney 5-10 0-2 14, Taylor Henningsgard 1-2 2-2 4, Leslie Beaudoin 6-14 1-1 14, Paitton Herbst 0-1 0-0 0, Ashley Bentz 6-12 0-0 15, Kara Glor 1-2 0-0 2, Rachael McDonough 1-2 0-0 3, Jalyn Klauzer 2-2 0-0 4 Totals: 33-68 7-9 83.
Total fouls: VCSU 11, DSU 14. 3-point goals: VCSU 4-18 (Dixon 0-4, Lennon 1-4, Schwanke 0-1, Williams 1-4, Meyer 1-1, Schlecht 0-2, Boehmlehner 1-2), DSU 10-19 (Shepherd 1-1, Feeney 4-7, Henningsgard 0-1, Beaudoin 1-1, Bentz 3-8, McDonough 1-1). Rebounds: VCSU 34 (three tied with 5), DSU 40 (Klein 11). Assists: VCSU 10 (Williams 4), DSU 23 (Henningsgard 10). Steals: VCSU 1 (Chakin 1), DSU 7 (Feeney 2). Blocks: VCSU 5 (five tied with 1), DSU 4 (Klein 2). Turnovers: VCSU 11, DSU 3.