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After spending the last two weeks on the road playing some of the area’s top-notch talent, the South Dakota School of Mines women’s basketball team returns home this weekend just in time for the Lady Hardrocker Classic women’s hoops tournament Friday and Saturday at Goodell Gymnasium in Rapid City
By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- After spending the last two weeks on the road playing some of the area’s top-notch talent, the South Dakota School of Mines women’s basketball team returns home this weekend just in time for the Lady Hardrocker Classic women’s hoops tournament Friday and Saturday at Goodell Gymnasium in Rapid City.
The Black Hills State Yellow Jackets, Rocky Mountain College (Billings, Mont.) Lady Bears and Menlo College (Atherton, Calif.) Lady Oaks will also be competing in the event.
The Lady Hardrockers enter the tournament with a 1-4 mark since starting the season in late October. They most recently returned from a two-day tournament hosted by Rocky Mountain, where the ‘Rockers came up short in both contests.
This Friday, SDM will get another crack at the Bears, who defeated Mines, 74-67, just one week ago.
“We played a horrible game. We weren’t in sync on offense and the defense was non-communicative,” said Hardrocker head coach Barb Felderman. “We were just totally out of sync and it wasn’t a good game.”
Rocky Mountain is a young team, comprised mostly by sophomores (six on roster). The squad also has three seniors and three juniors along with a pair of freshmen.
The Bears biggest threat, however, is 6-foot-2-inch junior college transfer Jenna Sawyer. A part of Dixie State College’s (Utah) team a year ago, Sawyer gained a wealth of experience and averaged 5.4 points and 3.9 rebounds each game. Last week, she tallied 13 points against the Lady Hardrockers.
But the deadly point getter for the Bears came from junior forward Gretchen Wall. The 5-9 Missoula, Mont., native dished in a game high 27 points. “Rocky Mountain shot extremely well,” Felderman said. “They came out and hit their first six or seven shots and that pretty much was the difference in the game.”
The Hardockers trailed by 10 at the half, 41-31, and managed to get closer in the second period, but couldn’t get over the hump to beat the Bears.
This time around Felderman hopes to do a better job of shutting down Rocky Mountain’s outside shooting.
“They are mostly guard driven so we will need to close out on those perimeter shooters,” the head coach said.
Mines does match up with the Bears fairly well. Freshman post players Bethany Holyoak (Moorcroft, Wyo.) and Leah Sundby (Williston, N.D.) did a good job in the paint last week while freshmen guards Madi Hotovec (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Rachel O’Hara (Humbolt) are rapidly developing on the perimeter to compliment juniors Melanie Vedvie (Lake Preston), Amber DeWeerd (Rock Valley, Iowa) and Jennie Malone (Rapid City).
Hotovec paced the Hardrockers against the Bears with 23 points while Vedvie and O’Hara both cashed in for 13.
In Saturday’s matchup, Mines face yet another nationally ranked NAIA powerhouse. Last week it was NAIA Div. I Carroll College of Wyoming (at Rocky Mountain tournament). This time out it will be the 12th preseason NAIA Division II rated Menlo College Lady Oaks from Atherton Calif. The Oaks finished last season with a 22-3 mark and made a run into the national tournament. But they are a somewhat young team this year and are comprised mostly of guards. Menlo rosters one senior, four juniors, five sophomores and three freshmen. They’re main threat and the key to their success seems to be centered around 5-9 guard/forward Kepua Lee, a junior from Honolulu, Hawaii. Last season Lee averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds per game. She earned the Cal-Pac conference MVP award and was selected to the NAIA third team All American. It should be an outstanding matchup between the Cal-Pac MVP and the Dakota Athletic Conference MVP in SDM’s Vedvie.
With an abundance of young athletic guards to go along with a returning All American, it would make sense that the Oaks would be a fast-paced team that likes to get up and down the court quickly.
“Actually they like to slow it down and make it a low scoring game,” Felderman said. “Caitlin Collier (Menlo’s head coach) has done a nice job with them and building the program.”
So look for the Hardrockers to be the aggressors early in the contest.
“Obviously we want to get going. We want to establish the tempo and keep it going up and down the court,” Felderman added.
Black Hills State will matchup with Menlo Friday at 5 p.m. and then square off with Rocky Mountain College Saturday in a 1 p.m. bout. The Hardrockers take on the Bears Friday at 7 p.m. followed by a 3 p.m. tip-off Saturday.
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