The Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes, a perennial contender, are back in another Class A state championship game.
Pine Ridge jumped on West Central early in a Class A state semifinal game in Watertown on Friday night and held on through some foul trouble late to move into the school's fourth Class A girls state championship game with a 63-53 victory at the Civic Arena.
Pine Ridge won state titles in 1989 and 2009 and finished as runner-up to Sisseton in 2004 when head coach Laura Big Crow was their standout player.
“Our girls just kept pushing,” Big Crow said. “Whenever West Central would score, we just got it back in and kept pushing it right back at them.”
Pine Ridge (22-1 overall) sprinted out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never relinquished the lead despite West Central (19-6) making a run late in the game. Pine Ridge knocked down some free throws and maintained enough composure to move into the title game tonight against top-seeded Harrisburg.
“The free throws at the end were really the difference,” Big Crow said. “The girls stepped up and made them when they counted.”
Big Crow said that her team was happy to see the Trojans come out and try to run with them early in the game.
“The night before we watched them and they did a little bit of running,” Big Crow said of West Central in its first-round game against Spearfish. “And we’ve been in really good shape all season and we knew we could wear them down if we just kept going and going and going and sure enough we did.”
Jolonna Sazue led Pine Ridge with 15 points before fouling out, freshman Shaylene Richard continued her strong play in the state tournament with 14 points and Santana White Dress added 12 points and 12 rebounds. Lynette Bettelyoun added seven points and 11 rebounds as well.
“It was a team effort just like it’s been all season,” Big Crow said. “We had Santana get some big buckets down low and Nette Bettelyoun had some nice buckets in the post and Shaylene Richard, our freshman, really stepped up and drove the ball and Shaniah (Richard) hit a couple big 3s. It was everybody.”
Hunter Mathieu led West Central, which will play Aberdeen Roncalli tonight for third place, with 18 points. Madison Kuehl added 12 points and McKenzie Stone finished with 11.
The Lady Thorpes shot 30 percent from the field while limiting the Trojans to 26 percent. Pine Ridge also out-rebounded West Central 47-38.
Big Crow said that her team won't be changing anything up tonight against the tournament’s top seed.
“We’re going to go in the same way we went in the tournament. We’re going to be ready to run and push the ball up and get some buckets,” she said.
The championship game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. MT.