By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- The first time this season that the South Dakota School of Mines women’s basketball team squared off with the Black Hills State Yellow Jackets, both sides had the same record.
It was the start of the Dakota Athletic Conference schedule as both teams posting a 0-0 conference mark back in early December. Three months later at the end of the DAC schedule, both teams again have an identical league mark of 7-6.
The Lady Hardrockers take on Black Hills State Thursday at the King Center in what is most likely the biggest game of the year for both squads.
Not only is it a long time rivalry bout, but the contest will also have serious playoff implications – with the winner hosting a first-round postseason game and the loser traveling. At 7-6 the Jackets and ‘Rockers are tied for third place with Mayville State. When factoring all the different scenarios of what might happen, the Hardrockers could finish as high as second and as low as sixth, so throw that on top of the rivalry and it really adds fuel to the fire.
“I’ve been here a long time and very few times has it been lopsided,” said Hardrocker head coach Barb Felderman about BHSU vs. SDSMT matchup. “It’s a good rivalry.”
The Hardrockers enter the game after a split last weekend in North Dakota. Mines fell to Minot State Friday before defeating Dickinson State Saturday afternoon.
“We did a horrible job on the boards against Minot and that was our demise,” Felderman said. “(Against Dickinson) we played with more intensity and we were very balanced.”
The Yellow Jackets also split over the weekend, taking down the Blue Hawks Friday before coming up short to Beavers Saturday.
Black Hills State has a 16-11 overall record for the year and appears to have a loaded roster. The Jackets have an excellent inside-outside game with senior Brittney Klipfel (5-foot-11-inch forward) and junior Lacey Haughian (6-2 post) doing damage in the paint while junior Jamie Bentley (5-7 guard) and freshman Brittney Furhman ( 5-6 guard) having the touch from the perimeter.
“The BHSU game is going to be complex,” Felderman said. “They are athletic. Mark Nore (BHSU head coach) has done a great job of recruiting and it’s showing.”
It’s kind of like a double edge sword for SDM. It will be hard for the Hardrockers to key on one aspect of the game or one particular player. If they shut down the underneath stuff, the Jackets will just go outside and vise versa.
Klipfel is BHSU’s leading scorer with 392 points for the season and is averaging 16 a game. Haughian is close behind with an average of 14 points per game while Bentley scores just under 10 each time out.
Felderman said there will be a few new things her team will try to do to defend their opponents --- but it would only be a few new things.
“I am very limited with my (defensive) wrinkle because of our youth,” Felderman added.
With six first-year players on the team, the defensive game plan will have to be simplified. Offense however shouldn’t be a problem as South Dakota Mines is firing on all cylinders.
The three junior players, Melanie Vedvei, Jennie Malone and Amber DeWeerd have all contributed heavily throughout the season. Vedvei leads the team in scoring, averaging 19 points each time out while Malone and DeWeerd are bout putting up 12 markers a game. Freshman Bethany Holyoak, who was last week’s DAC Player of the Week is also coming up big for the ‘Rockers with 11 points game.
Vedvei is the catalyst for the team. Not only is she the league’s second leading scorer, the Lake Preston native is also ranked nationally in six different NAIA Div. II categories (third in steals per game, 4; 14th in points per game, 19; 24th in assists per game, 5; 32nd in defensive rebounds per game, 6; 35th in free throw percentage, 81; 49th in total rebounds per game, 8).
“From Day 1, we have been scoring points and they come in a variety of ways,” Felderman said of her offense.
So with both teams having an arsenal of offensive weapons, it is easy to see why the long time rivals have the same record. It’s usually said that in a rivalry game “throw the records out the window”, but in Thursday’s matchup, that won’t be a concern.
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