By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- Two weeks ago, the South Dakota School of Mines women’s basketball team looked as if they hit “the wall” --- that point in the season when a team flames out and begins to struggle. With an offense that seemed a little sluggish at times, the Lady Hardrockers split their home games (Jan. 26-27). And with the two co-leaders in the Dakota Athletic Conference coming into town the very next weekend (Feb 2-3), things looked a little “iffy” for the SDM women.
But looks can be deceiving.
The Lady ‘Rockers had a stellar performance this past weekend, defeating both Dakota State and Mayville State convincingly. SDM held off a second-half rally from the Lady T’s to win, 74-69, and then made short work of the Comets with a 96-71 ‘W’.
“It was a very fun weekend,” said Lady Hardrocker head coach Barb Felderman. “We coaches are often too critical --- saying ‘we didn’t do this or we didn’t do that,’ --- but I was very pleased with all the kids’ efforts (last weekend). Those were two good teams that we beat. And it wasn’t just on offense – it was a combination of offense and defense.”
Felderman added that she and her team were disappointed in dropping the home game to the Jamestown College Jimmies (Jan. 27), 68-60.
The loss was the first this season at the King Center for the team and it was a game where the entire team knew they could have done better.
“There came a point where I said it was time to play the way that we can,” Felderman said.
The team responded well, playing back to early-season form. Mayville was ranked sixth in the NAIA heading into play last Saturday and the Hardrockers handle them from the opening tip-off, leading by as much as 33 points at one time during the game.
“It’s back to what we had in preseason,” Felderman said of the team. “It seems like the higher level of competition the higher we play. This is a great time of year for that to happen.”
That was certainly evident by the performance of post player Bethany Holyoak. The 6-foot freshmen had an outstanding weekend and was named DAC Player of the week. In the two contests, Holyoak was 14 of 27 from the field and a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. She scored 18 points both nights and had four blocks in Saturday’s game. For the season, Holyoak is averaging just over 10 points a game and coming down with 5.4 rebounds. She has 259 total points for the year and 136 boards.
“She is very intense. She has a huge desire to get things done, whether it��s defense or offense, “Felderman said of Holyoak. “She has some grit to her. When you look at her she appears meek and mild but that’s not the case.”
And as this weekend approaches, the Lady Hardrockers will take their final regular season road trip to North Dakota to face the league’s bottom two teams in the Minot State Beavers and Dickinson State Blue Hawks. Back in early January, SDM defeated both teams at home.
First up is the Minot State Beavers. In the first installment, Minot State came in as a highly ranked NAIA contender (No. 6 at the time) having just one loss on the season (14-1). The Hardrockers defeated the Lady Beavers on a buzzer beater from Holyoak, 71-69. “We know that Minot, having lost a close one (in Rapid City), is going to be ready for us (Friday),” Felderman said.
This time around, MSU is 17-8 on the season and 4-7 in DAC play. They have a number of athletes that can score, having the top three-point shooting percentage in the league (39 percent) and also having a pretty stingy defense, ranking second in the conference for points allowed at 60.
“They have quite a few numbers for kids and they have experience,” Felderman added.
Individually, the Beavers have four players averaging over 10 points a game. Junior guard Kendra Meyer leads the charge, averaging 17 points a game. She is also third in total scoring in the DAC with 414 (SDM junior Melanie Vedvei leads the conference with 478 total points).
Complimenting Meyer on the inside is senior post Jenny Castro, who is scoring 11 points a game. Add in the perimeter threat of Arrita Oler (12 ppg) and Brittni Walker (10 ppg) and the Beavers can cause some problems.
“They’re balanced,” Felderman said.
The key to winning for the Hardrockers will be defense. If Mines can keep the Beavers in check, limiting shots in the paint while keeping an eye on the spot up shooters, they should be able to come out on top.
In Saturday’s matchup, the ‘Rockers face a Blue Hawk team that is 5-19 on the season and 2-9 in conference play. Last time, the Hardrockers hung a lopsided defeat on Dickinson, winning, 78-56. But they are still a team that Felderman is wary of.
“Dickinson scares me to death,” the coach said. “They are very scrappy, very mobile, and right know they are on the bottom (of DAC standings), so they are pretty much care free.”
Dickinson has a point guard in sophomore Ashley Backich that has really come on as of late. Felderman said she has an awesome shot from the outside and is a good defender. The Blue Hawks also have a great rebounder in LaDonna Downs, who is averaging six boards a game. Brittany Messa will also be a threat, leading the team on offense with a 10-point average.
For Mines to be successful, just like with Minot State, the key will be defense.
“(Dickinson’s) Achilles heel has been inconsistent shooting. They are hot one half but then cool down in the other,” Felderman said. “We just want to keep the defense turned up on them so that they don’t get hot in both halves.”
The Hardrockers are currently 16-9 on the season and tied for fourth in the league standings at 6-5 with Black Hills State.
With the weekend games approaching, the SDM women hope to squash the notion of hitting ��the wall” and fading away down the stretch by climbing over that wall and shining bright as the season wraps up.
The Hardrockers scrap with Beavers Friday in 5:30 p.m. matchup and then square off with the Blue Hawks Saturday in a 4 p.m. bout.
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