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Roncalli falls to Viborg-Hurley in tourney opener

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Madelyn Bragg, center, moves to the basket between Viborg-Hurley’s Delana Mach, left and Denae Mach, right, as Roncalli’s Ava Hanson looks on at far right, during Thursday’s opening round game at the South Dakota Class B Girls Tournament in Watertown. Photo by John Davis taken 3/10/2022

WATERTOWN – A team known for its defense couldn’t get the stops it needed Thursday afternoon at the Watertown Civic Arena.

Top-seeded Aberdeen Roncalli gave up a season-high in points and fell to Viborg-Hurley 69-58 in the opening round of the State B girls’ basketball tournament.

Unlike last year when Roncalli put the defensive clamps on each of its state tourney foes to win the Class A state championship, the Cavaliers could not slow down the hot-shooting Cougars.

“I think we’re averaging giving up 33 a game and just gave up 70. We just didn’t defend well enough to win. We didn’t lose on the offensive end, we lost on the defensive end, today,” said Roncalli coach Derek Larson. “Last year at the state tournament we gave up 100 points total in three games. Tonight we come out and give up a 70 spot. You can’t win games in a state tournament giving up that many points.”

The tone was set early when Viborg-Hurley beat the Cavaliers off the dribble and started to get them in foul trouble. That remained a common theme throughout the game and soon became a big problem in multiple ways for Roncalli.

For one, the Cougars were spot on from the free-throw stripe, and second, the fouls continued to mount up, eventually robbing the Cavaliers of their best defender Olivia Hanson, who fouled out with about seven minutes left.

“Our best defender was in foul trouble the whole night. It’s just a tough way to go down, but give them credit,” Larson said. “Holy cow, they shot the ball well and they were definitely prepared.”

Roncalli had a chance to gain a little separation late in the first half, but could not build on a 28-21 advantage. Instead, Viborg-Hurley made back-to-back three-pointers in the final 44 seconds to close the gap to 28-27 at the break.

“That was so incredibly big. That was another thing we discussed at halftime,” said Viborg-Hurley coach Molly Mason who told her players to seize the moment. ” ‘What just happened these last couple of minutes here has given us a chance now. Now we have a chance. We’re not going in 7-8 points behind at halftime.’ The momentum, everything, really made us come out and attack the third quarter like we needed to.”

The Cougars closed the third quarter even more impressively than they did the second, going on a 10-2 run to take a 45-37 lead into the final eight minutes. From nailing three-pointers to attacking the rim, Viborg-Hurley was able to find holes in the normally air-tight Roncalli defense.

“That’s kind of been our game all year long, too,” Mason said. “We’ve been able to shoot from the three-point line and I really like to stress the dribble penetration and if you don’t have it, if they collapse in we always kick it out, but if you have the lane, go ahead and take it. So the girls have really, really done a great job with that all season.”

Viborg-Hurley’s Coral Mason, left, tries to drive past Aberdeen Roncalli’s Ava Hanson, right, during Thursday’s opening round game at the South Dakota Class B Girls Tournament in Watertown. Photo by John Davis taken 3/10/2022

Once the Cougars had the lead, they put on a clinic at the foul line. They made 15 of 18 free throws in the final quarter, including nine straight by Denae Mach. They finished the contest making 30 of 36 as a team, an 83 percent clip.

“We can’t send them to the line so many times, early. We knew they were a good free-throw shooting team, but obviously this is a really good free-throw shooting team,” Larson said. “You can’t climb back when they’re making 2-out-2 every time down the floor in the fourth quarter.”

Madelyn Bragg scored 24 points, Morgan Fiedler 13 and Jeci Ewart 10 for the Cavaliers, who scored 22 second-chance points, thanks to 13 offensive rebounds.

Denae Mach scored 22 points, Coral Mason 19 and Estelle Lee 17 for Viborg-Hurley.

The Cougars (20-4) will face Corsica-Stickney in the semifinals at 6 this evening.

“We’re so grateful and thankful for just being here at the state tournament. Beating an Aberdeen Roncalli team is so exciting for us, but our girls are so good at focusing,” Coach Mason said.

She expects her players to be ready for another big game tonight.

“We’re going to refocus and our mindset is going to go right back to where we need to be (Friday) night to beat the next team,” Coach Mason said.

Roncalli (22-2) will face White River at noon in consolation round action this afternoon. The game will pit last year’s Class A state champions against last year’s Class B state champions.

“It is going to be tough to come back tomorrow, but as we told those guys, our coaches aren’t going to quit on them,” Larson said. “We’re going to prep like we won this one and we hope that they do the same for us.”

VIBORG-HURLEY (20-4): Shelby Lyons 3 0-0 9, Estelle Lee 3 11-14 17, Coral Mason 6 6-8 19, Denae Mach 11-12 22 Delana Mach 0 2-2 2. Totals 16-44 30-36 69.

ABERDEEN RONCALLI (22-2): Madelyn Bragg 9 6-8 24, Allie Morgan 0 1-2 1, Morgan Fiedler 5 1-1 13, Jeci Ewart 4 0-0 10, Ella Hanson 1 0-0 2, Ava Hanson 3 1-2 8. Totals 22-68 9-13 58.

Viborg-Hurley 18 27 45 69

Aberdeen Roncalli 18 28 37 58 3-point field goals – Lyons 3, Mason, Denae Mach 3; Fiedler 2, Ewart 2, A. Hanson. Fouled out – Olivia Hanson. Total fouls – Viborg-Hurley 14; Aberdeen Roncalli 22. Rebounds – Viborg-Hurley 31 (Denae Mach 6); Aberdeen Roncalli 43 (Bragg 7, Ewart 6). Turnovers – Viborg-Hurley 7; Aberdeen Roncalli 6. Steals – Viborg-Hurley 5; Aberdeen Roncalli 3.

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