Lady ‘Rockers face tough road trip this weekend
By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- The South Dakota School of Mines women’s basketball team is hoping to ride the momentum of a six-game winning streak all the way to the far reaches of North Dakota this weekend as the Lady Hardrockers travel to Mayville for a Dakota Athletic Conference showdown with the Comets on Friday. SD Mines then has to hustle down to Madison on Saturday to square off with Dakota State --- a taxing trip to say the least.
“The sheer distance (makes it tough),” said Lady Hardrocker head coach Barb Felderman about the trip. “It’s 11 hours to Mayville and then five more hours (to Madison) to play the next afternoon.”
Hardrocker freshman Stephanie Bjustrom cuts toward the basket during a recent home game against Chadron State. Photo by Brad Blume
If the travel time wasn’t bad enough, the Hardrockers are facing two of the toughest opponents in the DAC if not the NAIA. Dakota State, the DAC tourney champion a year ago, was ranked No. 18 in the latest Top 25 national poll and Mayville State was just on the outside receiving a number of votes. SD Mines has the No. 13th ranking.
Looking at Friday’s contest, Mayville state has a solid team with some talented players. The Comets are currently ranked fifth in the DAC in scoring offense (71.57), fifth in scoring defense (67.71) and fifth in field goal percentage (.41). Mayville has a 8-6 overall record and is 2-1 in the DAC.
“They have knocked off some pretty big opponents,” Felderman said of the Comets.
Individually, MSU relies heavily on senior Laura BigCrow, a former Pine Ridge standout. The 5-foot-11-inch post player has tallied 253 points so far this season and is third in the league in scoring, averaging 18.07 markers a game. She is also third in field goal percentage (.56) and second in total rebounds at 108 --- 7.7 a game.
“They’ve got a very good post in Laura BigCrow. She’s a big factor inside. She posts well and she moves around well,” Felderman said. “She’s a bigger player than what we have (to match up against) and she is experienced and savvy. When she gets the ball she is pretty hard to stop.”
Complimenting BigCrow on the perimeter is fellow senior Cassie Leraas. The 5-6 guard is fifth in the DAC for scoring with 224 points, averaging 17.23 a game. She is also first in the nation in three-point goals a game with 3.53 and 29th in points per game. “On the outside, Mayville has one of the best shooters in the conference in Cassie Leraas,” Felderman said. “They also have some good supporting role players that can step it up.”
Dakota State won the conference tournament championship last year, defeating the Lady Hardrockers for a chance to go to the national tournament.
This season, the Lady ‘T’s have gotten off to a slow start with a 10-7 record --- or so it would appear. Dakota State has played a number of upper division teams with established program and even though may have come out on the short end, still gained valuable experience and gave them an edge as they enter the conference schedule.
“They’ve knocked off several, big and strong opponents. They are very balanced and are really seasoned seniors,” Felderman said. “They have a lot of experience and by now they know each other and what each other is going to do.��
The Trojans have a 2-1 conference mark, with Mayville State handing them a DAC defeat. Dakota State is second in the conference for scoring (77.82), first in field goal percentage (.47) and second in total offensive rebounds (677).
The Lady ‘T’s are a force in the paint. They currently have the No. 1 and No. 2 DAC rankings in blocked shots for the conference in seniors Maria Gengler (50) and Laura Tewes (34). Gengler stands 6-2 while Tewes reports in at 6-1.
“They are very tall. You can lose your head pretty easily,” Felderman said of attacking the inside.
Tewes is also the leading scorer for Dakota State averaging 14 points a game. She is currently first in the league in field goal percentage (.66) second in assists, averaging 4.65 a game and third in total rebounds with 131 (7.71 a game).
The Trojans distribute the ball fairly evenly on offense with senior Jessica VanLoy averaging 12.41 markers a contest and Gengler putting up 11.59 each time out.
With the inside shut down, the Hardrockers will have to rely on their perimeter game to open things up.
“We just have to continue to work the ball around and look for the best shot out of the offense,” Felderman said.
The Hardrockers enter the weekend with the No. 1 scoring offense (80.4) as well as recording the most assists at 338 (19.88 a game). SDM is second in the NAIA for assists per game, fifth in steals per game (14.82), seventh in turnover margin (7.53) and ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.063).
Individually, the DAC two-time MVP and NAIA All American Melanie Vedvei hasn’t disappointed in her senior campaign. The 5-7 guard leads the team in scoring with 333 points and is averaging 19.59 points a game. She is first in the nation for steals per game (4.35), 12th in points per game, 14th in assists per game (5.12) and 47th in field goal percentage (.48). She also leads the conference in steals (74) as well as assists (87) and is currently the DAC’s third leading scorer.
Fellow senior Jennie Malone is also excelling this season, averaging just under 12 points a contest while sophomore Bethany Holyoak is dropping in just over 10 markers a game. “I am pleased that everyone is stepping up and finding their niche’ and playing some pretty good team ball,” Felderman added.
Friday’s game is slated for a 4:30 p.m. (MST) start while Saturday’s bout starts at 3 p.m. (MST).
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