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DSU women earn at-large bid to national tournament, men left out

All those days waiting to know, and once the time was finally upon them, there wasn't all that much drama after all. Gathered in a classroom in Weinbergen Hall, the Dickinson State women's basketball team, along with head coach Mark Graupe and a ...

All those days waiting to know, and once the time was finally upon them, there wasn’t all that much drama after all.

Gathered in a classroom in Weinbergen Hall, the Dickinson State women’s basketball team, along with head coach Mark Graupe and a few other members of the athletic department, sat down at 4 p.m. Wednesday for the NAIA Division II National Tournament Selection Show.

At 4:01, they saw their school name flash across the screen. They were in as a sixth-seed in the 32-team field.  

As players celebrated accordingly -- a few moments worth of euphoria after waiting five days to know if their season was over or not -- Graupe stood with a smile of pure happiness -- not of surprise, though. He was tipped off earlier that day by the Jamestown head coach, the representative for their conference.

“I found out probably about noon. Only four hours of keeping my mouth shut, which is hard for me,” Graupe said. “I didn’t tell anybody, not one soul. When you watch the reaction, it’s such a neat reaction. The reason why I do it is for reasons like this, to see reactions like that.”

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Dickinson State, which was No. 21 in the last regular season poll released earlier Wednesday, was selected as the fifth at-large bid, and will be a No. 6 seed against third-seeded Eastern Oregon (28-4) next Wednesday at 8:15 p.m. MT in Sioux City, Iowa.

Valley City State, which beat the Blue Hawks in the conference semifinals, also got in as the eighth at-large team and will face Southeastern (Fla.) next Thursday. Jamestown, the NSAA champion, earned a No. 3 seed and will face Oregon Tech next Wednesday.

The defeat courtesy of the Vikings left an unsavory taste in the mouths of both Graupe and his players. The thought of the season ending there was a disappointment.

On Wednesday, for the players at least, when they saw their name, it was a weight off their shoulders to know the end of the road wasn’t quite upon them.

“It’s amazing to have that second opportunity to turn around and say, ‘Hey, we’re here. Let’s do this,’” senior Lorna Shepherd said. “It’s not so much a redeem, it’s just about showing up and seeing what we can do now that we’re there. It was just relieving. I had a little bit of doubt, it makes sense logically that we would be going, but you always have that emotional side, so that kind of had me on edge.”

There was, of course, very little anticipation for Graupe, but for Shepherd and her teammates, who were announced as one of the last pairings this time a year ago, they’re snappy inclusion (they were the third pairing announced) was a nice little gift, as well.

The Blue Hawks didn’t play Eastern Oregon in the regular season, but the two did share a couple of opponents from the Frontier League -- Rocky Mountain College and University of Montana-Western.

The Mountaineers lost to Montana Western (No. 20 in NAIA Division I) 60-47 and beat Rocky Mountain College 68-54.

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DSU split with Rocky, winning on the road and losing at home, and took a third-quarter lead into its game against Montana Western, but ended up losing by nine.

A little familiarity can’t hurt, thought Graupe.

“It’s nice that they have two teams in common with us,” Graupe said. “Any team you play, it’s going to be a good opponent, but we’ve got a nice team too, so you hope it's going to be a competitive game.”

Last year, thought Graupe, his team was a bit taken by the moment. “Googly-eyed,” he said.

They took a double-digit lead into halftime against Indiana Wesleyan and ended up losing by ten in the first round.

This year, with a second lease on life, maybe, he thought, things could be different.

“We went down there, it was all new. Maybe we can focus a little more on the game. There’s still so many neat things, but hopefully now that they’ve been there we can come out and put on a good show,” Graupe said. “I really felt like my seniors weren’t going to get another chance, and it tore me apart. I didn’t sleep Friday night just because of thinking about them, now I’m just happy for them.”

No dice for the men Just as head coach Justin Wetzel suspected, the Dickinson State men were a no-show in the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Selection Show. They were not one of the 10 at-large teams, officially ending their season after a loss in the NSAA finals to Bellevue, which earned the automatic bid and drew a sixth-seed.

Related Topics: BLUE HAWKS
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