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Special Moments

March Special Moments

Lower Brule’s Ellwyn Langdeau, right, goes after the jump ball with White River’s Kendrell Cuevas, left, at the start of overtime during a semifinal game at the South Dakota Class B Boys Basketball Tournament at Wachs Arena. Lower Brule won the contest in triple overtime. Photo by John Davis taken 3/18/2022

March 1: The De Smet boys’ basketball team ended its home season with a 78-27 Region 3B quarterfinal win over Waverly-South Shore. It was coach Jeff Gruenhagen’s 100th career win. Also, the Bulldogs have now won 32 straight home games and haven’t lost a home game since Dec. 11, 2018 (vs. Clark-Willow Lake), when the current seniors were freshmen.
March 1: The honors keep coming for the University of South Dakota women’s track team. USD’s Sara Reifenrath (Hartington, NE) was voted MVP of the recent Summit League indoor championships after she led the Coyotes to the program’s first indoor title. Reifenrath won the 200 and 400 meters and anchored USD’s winning 4×400-meter relay team.
March 1: Dakota State has raised almost half, $45 million, of its $100 million goal to redo almost all the athletic facilities on its campus. DSU last built any new athletic facilities in 1957. The anticipated timeline for the $35 million Phase One — DSU’s Athletics Events Center – includes the track being completed for the spring 2023 track season; the Athletics Event Center being completed in the spring of 2023; and the football field completed for football season 2024.
March 1: The Dakota Wesleyan women’s basketball team won its first-ever Great Plains Athletic Conference Tournament, pounding host and top-seeded Morningside 83-60. It was the Tigers’ sixth appearance in the GPAC championship game as they (26-7) now will advance to the NAIA national tourney.
March 2: Watertown residents got a look at what its new 94,000-square-foot ice arena complex will look like as drawings of the project were revealed. It will house two NHL-sized ice rinks — one with seating for 1,523 fans — with the building designed to allow a potential expansion to house a third sheet of ice in the future. Ground will be broken in the months ahead with an opening set for 2023. Up to $20 million in city sales tax revenue will be used to fund the project with any additional funds needed to be raised privately.
March 3: The girls’ basketball programs at Aberdeen Roncalli (22-1) and Aberdeen Christian (20-3) not only qualified for their respective school’s first State B tourney, but it is the first time two Aberdeen schools have been in the same state basketball tourney. Roncalli is the defending State A champion, but moved down to Class B this season.
March 3: Pierre Strong Jr. of South Dakota State tied for the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.37 seconds) among running backs at the NFL combine.
March 3: The Sully Buttes girls’ basketball team of coach Mark Senftner finished the regular season 18-5. Senftner collected his 500th win as a girls’ coach on Dec. 14 vs. Lyman. In 18 seasons at Sully Buttes, his teams have won four State B championships (2007, 2008, 2016 and 2017) and were state runners-up twice (2012 and 2015). Senftner has a career girls’ record of 515-211. Also a successful football coach and former boys’ basketball coach, Senftner recently was inducted into the Sully Buttes Hall of Fame.
March 3: Irene-Wakonda senior Nora O’Malley finished her basketball career with 1,608 points. During their high school careers, all six of the O’Malley brothers and sisters scored more than 1,000 points and as a group scored 10,660. Kieran scored the most points at 2,599 followed by Shannon (2,154), Nora (1,608); Seamus (1,554), Malloy (1,412) and Rory (1,333).
March 3: Bella Swedlund of Winner ended her career with 2,256 points, 15th on the state’s all-time girls’ basketball scoring list. She will play for the University of Kansas this fall. Jill Young of Mitchell Christian is the all-time leader with 3,317 career points.
March 3-5: For the fourth year in a row, Dakota State has hosted the NAIA national track and field indoor championships at the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex in Brookings. Indiana Tech won the 42nd annual women’s title and Oklahoma City won the 57th annual men’s title.
March 4: SuAnne Big Crow, a standout girl’s high school basketball player from the Lakota Reservation in South Dakota, was the subject and spiritual energy behind Kris Kaczor’s new film “Big Crow.” The 69-minute documentary made its World Premiere at the 37th Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California. Big Crow, who would have turned 48 on March 15, was killed in a car accident on Feb. 9, 1992, on her way to the South Dakota Miss Basketball banquet.
March 4: The Class AA girls’ basketball state tourney will be an all Rapid City and Sioux Falls area affair at the state’s newest major athletic facility, The Monument’s Ice Arena. Rapid City Central and Stevens are among the eight teams as are Sioux Falls Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington and O’Gorman. The other two teams are just on the edge of Sioux Falls, Brandon Valley and Harrisburg.
March 4: The SDSU men’s and women’s basketball teams will enter its conference tournaments having won a combined 31 games in a row. The Jacks men and women went a combined 35-1 in Summit League play this season.
March 4: The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference indoor field athlete of the year for the second straight season was Northern State senior thrower Tanner Berg (Watertown). Berg won eight weight throw competitions during the indoor season, reset his school record (74 feet, 1 inch) and finished as the national runner-up, the sixth All-American finish of his career.
March 5: The Black Hills State men’s basketball team (22-7) won its first ever Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament to qualify for the school’s first NCAA DII national tourney. The Yellow Jackets were the regular-season RMAC champs as well.
March 5: For the first time in two years due to Covid-19, fans were allowed back into the Summit League Basketball Tournament. With both SDSU and USD playing in the women quarterfinals, 8,075 watched the first afternoon session while 9,336 attended the night session of men’s quarterfinals (SDSU played). The Premier Center seats about 10,600 for basketball games.
March 7: The Summit League Men’s Basketball Tournament nearly filled the 10,600 seat Premier Center in Sioux Falls on semifinal night (10,418 fans) when SDSU defeated rival USD.
March 8: SDSU student Dillion Gross had a busy day of basketball in Sioux Falls. As student manager of the SDSU men’s team, the Jacks had a walk-through practice several hours before their Summit League championship game against North Dakota State. Late that afternoon, Gross went to the Sioux Falls Pentagon where his Sioux Valley boys’ basketball team — where he is a high school assistant coach — defeated Hanson for a State A Tournament berth. Then it was back to the Premier Center where SDSU handled NDSU for a NCAA DI Tournament berth.
March 11: Showtime came to the Black Hills to broadcast live a night of professional boxing at the Deadwood Mountain Grand. The three-bout program was headlined by Ardreal Holmes (12-0) of Flint, MI, who decisioned Vernon Brown (13-2-1) of Chicago. The event was part of Showtime’s ShoBox program which features the sport’s top prospects. More than 75 ShoBox fighters have become world champions.
March 12: Eighth-seeded Viborg-Hurley defeated second-seeded De Smet 58-53 to win the State B girls’ basketball championship. The Cougars (22-4) also beat the tourney’s No. 1 and 4 seeds during its memorable three-day run in Watertown. Thirty years ago on Dec. 6, 1992, at the same Watertown Civic Arena, Hurley, making its first-ever state tourney appearance, defeated Hanson 85-55 to win the girls’ basketball Class B title. Viborg-Hurley championship coach Molly Mason’s sister, Kim Gerdes, was a freshman starter on that Hurley team.
March 12: In the first state basketball tournament at the expanded, remodeled and renamed The Monument (formerly the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center) in Rapid City, the O’Gorman girls defeated Rapid City Stevens 49-42 for the Class AA basketball state title in the Ice Arena section of the complex.
March 13: White River senior Maleighya Estes finished her career with 2,214 points, 17th on the all-time girls’ basketball scoring list. She will play for Dakota Wesleyan this fall.
March 14: Northern State names only its fifth athletic director since 1956, Nate Davis, who is the current senior associate director of athletics for Pittsburgh State in Kansas. Before Davis, Josh Moon (2012-2021); Bob Olson (1999-2012); Jim Kretchman (1981-1999); and Clark Swisher (1956-1980) held the AD job for the Wolves.
March 15: With softball becoming an official high school sport in South Dakota in the spring of 2023, some participating school like Aberdeen Central are hiring their first softball coaches. Hired at Central was Cassidy Schaar, a former NSU player who also is a former assistant softball coach at Presentation College. Schaar is from Illinois and is a current teacher at Simmons Middle School.
March 15: For the second year in a row, the Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team traveled to South Dakota to win the three-game Central Region portion of the NCAA DII national tournament. Last year, the Bearcats came to Aberdeen where they defeated host Northern State in overtime to advance to the Elite Eight. This year, they came to Sioux Falls where they defeated host Augustana 70-56 in the region championship.
March 17: White River made its 17th straight State B appearance as the boys’ basketball state tourney opened in Aberdeen. Before their first-round game, White River coach Eldon Marshall surprised former long-time tourney director Gene Brownell by honoring him with a Native American Star Quilt before the game to thank Brownell for his years of service. Brownell, who retired last summer as the Aberdeen Central athletic director, and Marshall have become good friends over the years.
March 17: Providence ended SDSU’s historic men’s basketball season by beating the Jacks 66-57 in the first round of the NCAA DI Tournament. SDSU ended 30-5, the most wins in school history in a season that included a 21-game winning streak. The Jacks are 0-6 in NCAA tourney games.
March 17: Harrisburg nipped Mitchell 78-77 in three overtimes in the first round of the State AA Boys’ Basketball Touranment. Jacoby Mehrman led the winners with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists while Ethan Determan added 25 points. Caden Hinker paced Mitchell with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Mehrman made the game-winning layup with five seconds left in the third overtime.
March 17: Early in the second half of the Indiana vs. Saint Mary’s of California first-round men’s NCAA DI Tournament game, the basketball got stuck on top of and behind the backboard and its supports. Veteran DI official, 5-foot-10 Kelly Pfeifer (Mitchell resident and Philip/Dakota Wesleyan graduate), tried standing on a chair using the handle of a floor sweeper to dislodge the ball, but he came up short. However, Indiana cheerleader Cassidy Cerny stood on the shoulders of her teammate Nathan Paris to save the day. Saint Mary’s won the game 82-53.
March 18: Lower Brule defeated White River 86-83 in three overtimes in the State B Boys’ Basketball Tournament semifinals. Both teams lost one of their best players, Joe Sayler of White River and Keshaume Thigh of Lower Brule, to fouls in the fourth quarter. Brian LaRoche Jr. of Lower Brule made a layup with 1.5 seconds left to send the game into its first overtime. Gavin Folkers made a three-pointer with 15.2 seconds left to force the second overtime. Gavin Thigh of Lower Brule made a three-pointer with eight seconds left to force the third overtime. In the final overtime, Lower Brule made six of seven free throws. In the first round, Lower Brule defeated Castlewood 51-48 in overtime.
March 18: The USD women defeated Ole Miss 75-61, leading from start to finish in the first round of the NCAA DI Tournament. Coyote seniors Chloe Lamb (Onida), Hannah Sjerven and Liv Korngable led the way with a combined 50 points and making big plays in a variety of ways throughout the game. It was USD’s first NCAA Tourney win in four tries.
March 18: In the State A tourney semifinals, Tash Lunday of Flandreau became the 42nd high school boys’ basketball player in state history to score 2,000 or more career points.
March 19: In seven days, the same coaches and almost the same set of girls from Sioux Falls Lincoln won the prestigious Spirit of Six cheerleading awards at the Class AA boys’ and girls’ basketball state tournaments. The SFL coaches for both squads are Betzi Plucker and Kirsten McLaughlin and their award-winning cheerleaders are Savannah Chhen, Allie Huber, Emma Murphy, Mairghread Martinez-Smith, Leah Bosler, Adriana Ware, Abriale Buum, Lydia Nelson, Noelie Cole and Maizey Waldner.
March 19: In the WNIT basketball tourney, the SDSU women (25-9) applied a 78-57 beatdown of Minnesota to advance to the round of 16. The Jacks, now 6-1 all-time against the Gophers, were led by Haleigh Timmer (St. Thomas More) with 22 points while Myah Selland (Letcher) and Tylee Irwin contributed in a variety of ways as well.
March 20: It was a historic afternoon for the USD women’s basketball team as the Coyotes ripped the nation’s fifth-rated team to advance to the NCAA DI Tournament’s Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. The Coyotes used its scorching defense to burn host Baylor 61-47 in Waco, Texas. It was the 17th time this season the Coyotes held an opponent under 50 points. The Coyotes (29-5) were again led by its trio of seniors Hannah Sjerven, Chloe Lamb (Onida) and Liv Korngable who combined for 42 points. Baylor (28-7) got 23 points from seniors Queen Egbo and NaLyssa Smith, both members of Baylor’s 2019 national championship team.
USD, which has not trailed in 80 minutes of tourney action, ended a bunch of Baylor streaks. Before playing the Coyotes, the Bears had: won 137 straight games against non-ranked, non-Big 12 Conference opponents; won 66 straight games (since Jan. 13, 2014, 66-55 vs. UConn) against non-conference opponents on its home floor; qualified for the last 12 Sweet 16 rounds in a row; and had not been held under 50 points for the last 287 straight games (a 52-45 loss to Oklahoma State on Dec. 30, 2015).
March 19: With SDSU recruit and senior Kalen Garry leading the way, De Smet won its second boys’ basketball state title in a row. De Smet has been ranked No. 1 for most of the last three years, finished with a 94-7 record the last four years (seniors Garry, Rett Osthus and Blake Van Regenmorter) and finished as runners-up in 2019. De Smet has now won state basketball championships in 1970, 1971, 1987, 1995, 1999 (Class A champions, rest are Class B), 2021 and 2022.

March 21: Mike Tuschen is retiring as a South Dakota high school boys’ basketball coach after 37 seasons, a 556-256 career record and two state titles (Stickney in 2002 and Corsica-Stickney in 2011) in eight State B appearances. He is one of nine boys’ coaches in state history to record 500 or more wins, coaching 13 all-staters along the way. The Mount Vernon native started his coaching career with Stickney in 1985 and finished with Corsica-Stickney (consolidated in fall of 2009).
March 23: At the SDSU Pro Day, Jackrabbit safety Michael Griffin turned heads with a vertical leap that was so high it exceeded the limits of the measuring tool. When they extended the marker so Griffin could jump again, he reached a whopping 43.5 inches. His leap would have been the top jump at this year’s NFL Combine and among the top 10 in Combine history. Former NSU speedster Vance Barnes was one of three DII hopefuls who also performed in front of NFL scouts.
March 24: One of the best men’s basketball seasons in Black Hills State history came to an end in the NCAA DII national semifinals in a 70-57 loss to defending national champion Northwest Missouri State (which won its third national title in a row on March 26). The Yellow Jackets were within four points with 12 minutes left in the game, but the Bearcats went on a 17-2 run that finished off Black Hills in their first DII Elite Eight appearance. Led by All-American Joel Scott, coach Ryan Thompson and his Black Hills team ended 26-8 and the champions of the South Regional and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament and regular season. Black Hills defeated previously undefeated and No. 1-seeded Nova Southeastern of Florida 77-67 in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals.
March 24: South Dakota State guard Baylor Scheierman has declared himself eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft, while maintaining his college eligibility. Scheierman has played three years at SDSU, but due to the COVID-19 year, is still classified as a sophomore, meaning he has two years of eligibility left. Players who elect to declare will have until the NCAA deadline of June 1 to withdraw from the draft and maintain their college eligibility. This year’s NBA Draft will be held on June 23 in Brooklyn while the NBA Combine runs May 16-22 in Chicago.
March 26: The University of South Dakota’s season came to an end in the Sweet 16 as the Coyotes fell 52-49 to No. 12 Michigan in front of 8,540 mostly USD fans inside INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, KS. The Coyotes (29-6) missed a long, three-point attempt at the buzzer to tie the game. It marked the final game for seniors Chloe Lamb (Onida), Hannah Sjerven (Rogers, MN), Liv Korngable (Rochester, MN) and Regan Sankey (Lincoln, NE). They led the Coyotes to four straight NCAA Tournaments, the first two NCAA tourney wins in USD history and four-year records of 106-20 overall, 58-2 at home, 69-5 in the Summit League with five conference titles (three tournament and two regular season).
March 26: The men’s college basketball season for Arkansas, including a couple of former South Dakota residents, ended with a 78-69 loss to Duke in the Elite Eight. Third-year Arkansas coach Eric Musselman used to coach in Rapid City, and Arkansas graduate student and starting guard Stanley Umude played his first four seasons at the University of South Dakota. Umude was a three-time All-Summit League player who had 1,520 career points for the Coyotes along with 549 rebounds, 183 assists, 91 blocked shots and 55 steals. In his one season with the 28-9 Razorbacks, Umude collected 440 points, 171 rebounds, 41 assists, 37 steals and 30 blocked shots.
March 27: The SDSU women survived Alabama 78-73 in a wild WNIT quarterfinal game at Frost Arena in Brookings. The Jacks sealed the win in the final 40 seconds on a steal by Tylee Irwin that resulted in a three-pointer by teammate Lindsey Theuninck. Before that, Theuninck had made another three-pointer to give the Jacks a 75-73 lead with 1:42 left. The Jacks let a first-quarter lead of 17 slip away, only to rebuild a 44-30 halftime lead. Alabama then outscored the Jacks 34-12 in the third quarter, and the Tide led 66-56 with 9:38 to go in the game. That is when SDSU went on a 14-0 run to reclaim the lead. Alabama held its last lead, 73-72, with 2:11 left. Attendance was 4,268, the most for a SDSU women’s game since Notre Dame visited Frost Arena on Nov. 21, 2015 (ND won 75-64). And at halftime, Brookings graduate and SDSU student Carter Holm delighted the crowd when he drained a halfcourt shot to win free food and drink for a year at the popular Brookings sports bar and eatery Cubby’s.
March 28: Northern State has honored long-time, multi-sports official Duane “Dewey” Donat (1945-2021) of Aberdeen by featuring his name in a pair of annual track meets it hosts. His son, Eric Donat, will work both of those meets in 2022 as an official, including today’s Dewey Donat Invitational high school meet. The elder Donat was its main go-to track official/starter for NSU track for years.
March 28: The Aberdeen Public School Board has renamed some of its athletic facilities. The football field will now be known as the Golden Eagle Field. The complex, which also includes the track, locker rooms, stands and concessions area, will be known as the Brownell Activities Complex in honor of retired athletic director Gene Brownell. 
March 29: NSU ushered in a new era of softball as its new Koehler Hall of Fame Field was dedicated. The new softball complex is named after 1974 NSU graduate Jim Koehler, who has been a life-time supporter of the sport and who was a SD Hall of Fame player. More than 300 fans helped officially open the complex as Moorhead swept a women’s fastpitch doubleheader from the Wolves. The softball facility is part of the $33 million, on-campus NSU Regional Sports Complex, which includes Dacotah Bank Football Stadium.
March 29: USD basketball stars Hannah Sjerven and Chloe Lamb (Onida) are among 88 candidates who will be considered for the April 11 WNBA Draft. They led the Coyotes to the Sweet 16 this past season. There will be 36 picks (three per team).
March 31: West Virginia has hired Dawn Plitzuweit as its women’s basketball coach. She spent the past six seasons as the coach at USD where she led the Coyotes to a 158-36 record and the last four NCAA Tournaments. USD advanced to the Sweet 16 this season. Her career coaching record is 346-129. Plitzuweit, who was earning $275,000 per year at USD, signed a five-year deal worth $3 million and will earn $550,000, plus the possibility of incentives, in her first season with the Mountaineers.
March 31: The SDSU women outlasted UCLA 62-59 in the WNIT semifinals in front of a sold-out Frost Arena crowd of 5,227 in Brookings. It was a back-and-forth (11 lead changes, 11 ties) fierce defensive battle. The Jacks sealed the win on Haleigh Timmer’s baseline jumper which gave the Jacks a 60-58 lead with 38 seconds left and two Tori Nelson free throws with 20 seconds left (final points in the game). UCLA missed a three-pointer to tie the game at the buzzer.

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