SPEARFISH — Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but the Black Hills State men were making sure their play was too hot for South Dakota Mines to handle.
Two nights after giving Minot State its comeuppance, the Yellow Jackets avenged their other conference loss with another tremendous shooting display Tuesday night to hand the Hardrockers a
75-63 defeat at the Young Center and secure the final Dakota Athletic Conference Tournament title.
Black Hills State (26-5), ranked fifth in NAIA Division II, was a remarkable 15-of-22 (68 percent) from the field in the first half and shot 59 percent from the floor for the game. First-team all-conference senior Luke Enos was 7-of-9 and had 16 of his game-high 21 points in the opening 20 minutes, and Clay Pottorff added 10 before the break. Both players were converting contested attempts throughout, as Enos hit multiple fading jumpers and Pottorff was pulling up with poise in the lane.
Persevering through BHSU’s torrid start, the Hardrockers (19-12) found themselves only down 36-31 at intermission despite shooting 43 percent in the first half and having post players Kyle Doerr and Michael Dietz combine for just four points.
The tide turned quickly in the second, however, specifically in a
4-1/2 minute stretch shortly after BHSU head coach Bradd Schafer received a technical foul. The Jackets were ahead 43-35 at the time, but following two Scott May free throws and a Tanner Friesen lay-in, Mines had pulled to within four.
Black Hills State then answered with a 17-8 spurt that essentially put the game to rest. Included were scoring contributions from six players, none bigger than a Spencer Childress triple that pushed the lead to 47-41. Two more 3s followed in the run, which was capped by a Craig Von Allman bomb from the corner that made it 60-47 with 11:10 to go.
“We knew we needed some revenge, and the DAC title game would be the sweetest time to get it,” Pottorff said, referencing a
76-74 Mines win in Spearfish on Jan. 27. “The feeling is indescribable.
“… I don’t know what I was feeling,” he said of his 16-point performance, which included a 6-for-6 effort from the floor. “But I know I was liking it. If I could have this kind of feeling every day, I’d be a very happy man.”
To their credit, the Hardrockers never lost their intensity in front of a raucous, near-capacity crowd. But after the Jackets’ big run, Mines ended up falling behind by as many as 19 and could never move closer than 10.
“I’m proud of them. They made a couple of different big runs, and we still came back. We didn’t play as well on the offensive end as we’d like, as far as execution goes,” said the Hardrockers’ Jason Henry, who was named DAC coach of the year late Tuesday. “Even if we would’ve done that, though, it still would have been tough, given how well they played.”
On even the Jackets’ worst shot of the night — an Enos air ball with less than 4 minutes remaining — things went right for BHSU. Childress came up with the ball in a mad scramble and zipped a pass to Cain Atkinson, who hit the last of his four 3s as the shot clock ran out and sent the home crowd into an unofficial victory celebration. Atkinson went over 2,000 points in his career on the night.
“Over the years, we’ve had times where we’ve kind of clicked on all cylinders,” Enos said. “But we’ve improved a lot just these past couple of weeks. Our help defense has been better both in penetration and in the post.”
Schafer agreed that limiting contributions from Friesen (10 points), Dietz (nine) and Doerr (five) was the biggest key.
“The first time here, they all got us good, and we were never able to stretch the game,” he said. “Tonight we were able to stretch it and give us some cushion. Tech played hard, so hard, but our guys deserved it.”
Nathan Jacobson had a trio of treys and led Mines with 16 points. Scott May added a gritty 13 for the Hardrockers, who will nervously await their tournament fate as the men’s bracket is released tonight.
The Yellow Jackets will likely receive one of the top four seeds in next week’s national tournament. But Enos and Pottorff were busy soaking in what they each called one of the more meaningful wins of their careers.
Schafer felt the magnitude of the moment as he struggled to come up with the proper words.
“For these guys to win the last conference tournament, it’s just special,” he managed through watery eyes.