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The Red Cloud girls’ basketball team has a goal in mind and that is to get after it. Up tempo is obviously the name of their game.

The Lady Crusaders got after it to open the 41st Annual Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament, stopping White River 68-46 Wednesday in the Ice Arena of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Red Cloud, 2-0 on the young season, forced 36 White River turnovers (21 steals) and turned many of those mistakes into baskets.

They did what they plan on doing.

“We know everybody has a pretty solid five, but we feel pretty good about our six, seven, eight, nine and 10,” Red Cloud coach Matt Rama said. “At some point you are going to have to put your six, seven, eight, nine and 10 on the floor and see if you can play with ours.

“I’ve coached for a while and we have always tried to play fast, plus it is more fun for the kids because you get to play a lot of kids. It is more fun in practice because they know they will play in the game. I think that is what it is all about.”

Red Cloud senior Aaliyah Provost, who led all scorers with 17 points, had three steals and said the way they played on Wednesday is nothing new. Their depth is what allows them to get up and down the court.

“We have been doing that all summer long,” Provost said. “We have just built a mentality within us to get it done.”

White River, a Class B program in its first game of the season, hung tough early and only trailed 20-14 before Provost and the Crusaders used a 15-1 run before taking a 39-23 edge into the locker room at halftime. Provost had 13 of her 17 points in the first half.

Provost’s 3-pointer early in the second half put the Lady Crusaders up 51-26 and Red Cloud led by as much as 29 points before the Lady Tigers found some offense to close the final gap.

“They (Red Cloud) are a great team and this was our first game,” White River coach Kristie Yackley said. “If we’re going to play in this tournament, we want to play against a team as great as they are because it gauges us and shows us what we have to work on."

That depth for Red Cloud enabled it to see nine of the 10 players in the game score. Sharissa Haas finished with 13 points, followed by Jasmine Derby with 12 and Emonee Pourier with 11.

Sierra McGowan led White River with 14 points, with Remedy Morrison adding 11. The Lady Tigers hit 7-of-22 from beyond the 3-point line.

“I thought we did some good things today, but we have a lot of work to do,” Yackley said. “We have to take care of the ball. We knew they were going to come out and pressure us, and that is the type of game we like to play, too. I’d like to see us take care of the ball a little better, and we have to rebound better. We just have to play better.”

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Rama said he has a hard working bunch of girls who want to do well, and they are excited about the season.

He said the season is unique because of all of the talent in the Black Hills area.

“Custer is solid, Belle Fourche is good, STM is obviously good, Lead-Deadwood has had a good start this year. Todd County is good and Pine Ridge is tough,” he said. “It is one of those years that you are going to have to be ready to battle every single night. That’s fine; that is what it is all about. I think it is good because once you go through that schedule, you are ready for the Sweet 16 because you are battled tested and not getting walks in the park.”

The first of four straight days of basketball, Provost said she is excited to be playing in the LNI once again.

 “This is a tournament that we look forward to, ever since we were little kids,” Provost said. “Once you get up in high school, you are excited to play in this tournament.”

This is Rama's 14th LNI and he said it is a lot of good basketball with great family time as a bonus

"My son (Alejandro) is playing too with the boys," he said. "The thing about the LNI is it is a great time. Your family is here ... people you haven’t seen for a long time, from different areas. I feel fortunate to be in the LNI again. I tell the girls to enjoy it because before you know it, it will be over and you will wish you are playing in it again.”

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.