The mood in the Rapid City Stevens girls’ basketball locker room was much different than a week ago, after a last-second loss to Sioux Falls Lincoln.
It was time to celebrate a historic win.
The Raiders rose to the occasion with a strong fourth quarter to top cross-town rival St. Thomas More in the two team’s first ever meeting 51-39.
“For us confidence is huge, and we want to celebrate every win,” Stevens coach Michael Brooks said. “I think more than anything, it was about the change from last game to this game. In the big moments in our last game we kind of succumbed to the pressure, and in this game we rose to the challenge.”
Trailing for most of the game, Stevens got a strong fourth quarter out of sophomore Kyah Watson and the Raiders were able to put an exclamation point on a game that was otherwise pretty even.
“We all know that we have to attack the rim, and we can’t settle for 3s,” said Watson, who finished with 12 points on the night. “We have to get past that (Lincoln) loss and keep playing how we know how to play.”
For the Cavaliers, it was the lack of big plays in big moments that coach Brandon Kandolin said hurt his team.
“They made plays, that’s just what it comes down to,” he said. “That’s something you’ve got to figure out. How do you limit those big plays?
How do you make some plays yourself?”
It was the home team that got off to a strong start, as two 3-pointers gave Stevens an early 6-3 lead.
STM responded with a 8-0 run to take a 11-6 lead, and ended the quarter leading 15-8.
Stevens came out of the break strong, scoring the first two baskets and cutting the lead to 15-12 before a minute had gone by in the second.
The Cavs’ Aislinn Duffy and the Raiders’ Lexus Eagle Chasing went back and forth for most of the first two periods, as Duffy ended the half with 10 points and Eagle Chasing scored 13.
Eagle Chasing continued her hot streak in the second half and led all scorers with 23, while Duffy finished with 16. Brooks said she was a main component of the Raiders defensive strategy.
“We’re usually a team that gets out and denies and pressures, but the way they were running their offense, they wanted to get the ball into what was their biggest advantage, which was in the post,” he said. “We had to change how we were playing in the post to allow us the ability to have more success by maybe not being so aggressive on the weak side and making sure our strong side got more engaged to get the ball out of her hands, because when it still got in there she hurt us.”
After a Eagle Chasing 3-pointer the lead was cut to 21-20 with 2:15 remaining in the half.
Timley fouls committed by Stevens on Haleigh Timmer and Klaire Kirsch allowed the Cavs to build its lead to 26-20 at halftime.
Again Stevens started the quarter strong with four quick points, but whenever the Raiders were in a position to potentially tie or take the lead, the Cavs would respond with a run.
STM scored the next four points to take a 30-24 lead with four minutes left in the third.
Stevens again had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final two minutes of the quarter, but ill-timed turnovers and missed layups kept the lead with the Cavaliers, who led 33-32 at the end of the quarter.
That changed in the opening moments of the fourth when Eagle Chasing calmly hit two free throws to give the Raiders their first lead since the opening minutes at 34-33.
Both defenses continued to be tough, and when STM called a timeout with 5:12 remaining it led 40-37. But in a game where points were hard to come by, back-to-back baskets from Watson seemed like daggers, as the lead stretched to seven.
They would end up being those daggers, the Cavs only scored two more points and Stevens knocked down its free throws, securing the win.
Brooks said he saw a mentality change in the fourth quarter, and he liked what he saw.
“We hit some big shots, we attacked the rim pretty ferociously,” he said. “I think Kyah did a great job of that. I think Lexus did a great job all game of that. I think it was a change in our mentality, instead of passing the ball around the perimeter and hitting the 3, we attacked lanes and attacked gaps, which made their defense close and then we hit those big shots.”
For STM, 17-3, Kandolin said he hopes his team can learn something from the loss with the 8A regional playoffs coming up.
“You want to hope that you learn from every game,” he said. "This is, for us, figuring out how to manage the game at the end, not turn the ball over. That loss has got to help you, it depends on us, how are we going to take it? Are we going to build off it, or are we going to not learn from it? I guess that’ll be answered shortly.”
Stevens, 16-3, faces another cross-town rival when it ends the regular season Tuesday with a road game against Rapid City Central.