Following its games against rival South Dakota School of Mines Friday, both the Black Hills State men's and women's basketball teams had questions that needed answers regarding their position in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference standings.
For the men, the question was if the team would be hosting a quarterfinal game. The women had a more interesting question, as a log jam had teams tied at position six through nine, with only eight teams being invited to the tournament.
In the end, both teams got what they wanted.
Following a 69-61 win over Mines, the men's team clinched a quarterfinal match up in the RMAC/ Under Armour Tournament to be played in Spearfish as the No. 4 seed.
The women's team fell to Mines 71-62, but through tiebrakers earned the No. 8 seed and will be travelling to face the No. 1 seed in the women's bracket, Colorado Mesa.
At 16-10 overall and 15-7 in the RMAC, the Yellow Jackets will face No. 5 seeded Colorado Mesa at the Young Center Tuesday at 6 p.m.
It was a goal at the start of the season for the men's team to host a playoff game after finish seventh in the conference last season.
"All week it was 'if we win we put ourselves in a position, it’s all on us and we control our own fate and destiny,'" BHSU junior guard Tyler Oliver said following the win over Mines. "We handled business and I feel like we got two big wins at home. The goal is always to win the conference but hosting a playoff game is nice as well."
The Yellow Jackets helped themselves with a home win over Colorado-Colorado Springs 79-76 on Feb. 23. The win pushed UCCS to the No. 6 seed. The winner of BHSU's game with Mesa will face the winner of the No. 1 seed Colorado School of Mines taking on Adams State Tuesday, with the winner playing at the higher seed Friday.
The game Tuesday will be a rematch of one of the closest games the Yellow Jackets have had this season. They traveled to Mesa Jan. 5 and fell to the Mavericks 78-74.
At 14-8 in the RMAC, Mesa is fourth in conference games this season in scoring offense with 80.5 points per game while BHSU is eighth at 75 points per game.
The Yellow Jackets have an advantage defensively, ranking second in scoring defense during conference games at 69.8 points per game, while Mesa is eighth at 76.1 points per game allowed.
The game will be a tip-of-the-hat to the building of a program, something BHSU coach Ryan Thompson said falls on the ability of the players.
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"I feel like we took a big step forward this year, that’s a credit to our guys," he said. "They put in a lot of work, stayed the course and never wavered when we faced some adversity and I’m just happy for those guys to be able to take some ownership in the fact that they left the program better than they found it."
Following the women's team loss, coach Mark Nore wasn't sure if his team was going to be playing in the postseason.
The loss put the Yellow Jackets at 12-10 in the RMAC, tied with Regis, Western State-Colorado and Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Now that BHSU knows it is in the tournament, the challenge turns to facing a very tall order, the regular season conference champions.
The Mesa women's team finished the regular season with a 20-2 record in the RMAC and a 23-3 record overall, which includes a 13-0 record at home.
The game sets up to be a battle of explosive offense vs. stifling defense. Mesa's offense ranks in the middle of the conference, averaging 64.5 points per game, but it was number one in defense in averaging 50.8 points allowed per game.
BHSU ranks second in the RMAC at 66.7 points scored per game, and 10th in points allowed at 61.6 per game.
One thing the Yellow Jackets will also have to focus on is getting over an emotional loss in the 100th game played ever against their rivals from Rapid City, which was also senior night for four seniors.
"I think when you look at it, it was quite the emotional game tonight, a lot of different things with it. I thought it was a great moment for our seniors to be recognized," Nore said Friday after the loss. "You just have to (get over the loss), it’s tournament time, it’s a new season, everyone is 0-0 and the same. That’s what you have to focus on, is getting to the next round."
The two teams played earlier in the season, with the Mavericks winning at home 72-48 on Jan. 5.
BHSU will have to tap into its 11-4 record on the road to score a huge upset.
"It's a matter of getting hot at the right time," Nore said.
The Yellow Jackets take on Mesa Tuesday at 6 p.m. The winner will face the winner of the No. 4 seed Colorado School of Mines taking on No. 5 seed Colorado State-Pueblo, which is also Tuesday. The semifinal game will be Friday at the higher seeded team.