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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

New banners remind BHSU men of where they want to be in March

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SPEARFISH — Banners already line the walls and fill the rafters at the Donald E. Young Center. They commemorate a rich history of success in both men’s and women’s basketball at Black Hills State University, dating back to its days as an NAIA powerhouse.

On Wednesday night, the Yellow Jackets hoisted a new set of banners and passed out rings to celebrate the men’s basketball program’s newfound success among the ranks of NCAA Division II.

The team’s leading scorer, Joel Scott, said he’s proud to see the banners but that they serve as a reminder of the goals in front of this BHSU team.

“It's always special, especially in an environment like this with everyone coming up to support,” Scott said. “It's really fun, but it also just reminds you of where we want to get to later in this season.”

BHSU students may not have been able to attend the ceremony ahead of the team’s ceremony, giving the Thanksgiving holiday, but the community showed up in droves for the Yellow Jackets’ home opener against Montana State Billings on Wednesday.

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The Yellow Jackets responded after the ceremony with a 97-38 win over Billings, a 59-point spread that proved to be the largest margin of victory for BHSU since 1964-65.

“I'm always a little worried about doing something like that, having a ceremony, and maybe it affecting us,” head coach Ryan Thompson said. “But boy I had nothing to worry about tonight. We came out and our guys were in a great frame of mind.”

The 2021-22 BHSU team, under the direction of Thompson, lifted the proud Spearfish program to new heights. Its lengthy list of accomplishments included a 26-8 (17-4) record, RMAC regular season title, first RMAC Tournament title, first NCAA Division II Tournament appearance, NCAA Division II South Central Region championship, Elite Eight appearance and Final Four appearance.

Sava Dukic led the team in scoring after the ceremony with 26 points on 9 of 13 shooting from the field and nailed six 3-pointers. Dukic, a fifth-year senior, shared his gratitude toward BHSU fans for showing up to the ceremony and the game.

“This is the best place to play in the country in my opinion,” he said. “We're so loved here. Everybody cares for us so much. We have the greatest fans.”

Black Hills State is already off to an excellent start in pursuit of its lofty goals. The Yellow Jackets boast a No. 5 ranking in the D2SIDA National Poll, No. 6 ranking in the NFCA National Poll and hold the top spot in the South Central Regional Poll.

Contact Alex Dodd at ADodd@rapidcityjournal.com

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