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South Dakota School of Mines women’s basketball team will more than likely face its toughest competition of the season this weekend as the Lady Hardrockers welcome the Dakota Athletic Conference co-leaders to town in the Mayville State Comets and Dakota State Trojans
By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mine
RAPID CITY --- The South Dakota School of Mines women’s basketball team will more than likely face its toughest competition of the season this weekend as the Lady Hardrockers welcome the Dakota Athletic Conference co-leaders to town in the Mayville State Comets and Dakota State Trojans.
Both visiting teams have identical conference records of 7-2 and both defeated SDM in the first installment just three weeks ago.
“That was our road trip from hell,” said Lady Hardrocker head coach Barb Felderman. “Physically we weren’t where we should have been. We missed some shots that we should have made.”
It was the longest road trip of the DAC schedule for SDM. Traveling all the way to Mayville, N.D (nine-hour drive) that Thursday and then trekking down to Madison directly after the game was very taxing for the young Mines squad.
This time out, the Lady ‘Rockers should be well rested and hungry for a pair of W’s after splitting at home last weekend, giving SDM a 4-5 conference mark and tied for fourth place in the standings.
Up first is Dakota State Friday evening. The Lady T’s were picked to finish first preseason and they are a team that is battle tested, using the non-conference part of the season to play upper level teams.
In the last matchup, the ‘Rockers played a very close game with the Trojans, but let them slip away down the stretch as they posted a 76-64 victory.
“They are a good team. They play a matchup zone and try to cause a lot of turnovers and then they have the height for rebounding,” Felderman said.
The Lady T’s are third in the DAC for scoring offense, averaging 72.3 points a game, second in offensive rebounds, amassing 896 for the year and first in steals, tally a total of 280 on the season.
Dakota State has a pair of junior forwards that do most of the damage in Laura Tewes and Jessica VanLoy Both are averaging over 10 points a game. VanLoy is second in the conference for total steals with 60. South Dakota Mines Melanie Vedvei is first with 90.
This time out, the Hardrockers hope to resurrect their powerful scoring offense, which is ranked second in the DAC, averaging 72.4 points a game.
To do that, Felderman has a simple game plan.
“Quality shots,” the head coach said. “Some shots are better than others and good movement – ball and player movement throughout the zone.”
Saturday’s game will featured a battle of individual conference scoring leaders.
While Vedvei is the current DAC scoring leader with 444 points on the season, Mayville State’s Laura BigCrow has traded the top spot with Vedvei off and on throughout the years. BigCrow, originally from Pine Ridge, trails by just 15 points with 429. She is averaging 18.7 points a game and does a lot of beating and banging in the paint.
The Comets have a variety of other weapons that are also averaging double figures. Cassie Leraas, a junior guard has the touch from the outside, putting up 15.4 points a game. Michelle Halverson also can put it up from the perimeter as a senior guard averaging 11.1 points each time out. “They are leading the conference (in scoring 77.4 points a game). They have some good athletes that will hurt you in a variety of ways,” Felderman said. “They have a couple of great guards, a couple good utility players and a couple good posts.”
In their last meeting with Mayville, the Hardrockers were very cold from the field, shooting under 30 percent. The Comets took advantage at the other end and cruised to a 74-57 DAC victory.
Felderman said that the “quality shots game plan” would be the way to go against the Comets as well.
After splitting games a week ago at home in which SDM looked a little shaky at times, Felderman hopes for a sharper performance out of her group, which rosters three juniors and five freshmen.
“Last weekend we didn’t play to our abilities or what we had done previously and it’s very frustrating,” Felderman said.
Some say it takes a while for first-year players to adjust to the rigors of competing at the college level. Also that the schedule is a tad longer from the high school level and that freshmen hit their peak and burn out during the final push of the regular season.
Felderman doesn’t buy into that.
“I don’t know. Their modality is college --- that’s what they are living right now (going to class, dorm life, college atmosphere),” Felderman said. “They are almost two years older since they played their (high school hoops) season. Physically I think we are okay. Part of it is just the freshmen and the ‘freshmen fog.’”
But that fog should lift.
The new players for the Hardrockers have seen all the DAC teams and are more familiar with how the conference works and what to expect the second time around.
“Our (freshmen) know who (the other DAC teams) are now,” Felderman added.
The Hardrockers square off with Dakota State Friday at 5:30 p.m. and then face the Comets Saturday in a 4 p.m. matchup.
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