Harrisburg rode the shooting of Kiki Berndt and overcame Rapid City Stevens’ press over the final three quarters, as the Tigers advanced to the semifinals of the Class AA girls' state basketball tournament Thursday with a 55-45 win in the Rapid City Ice Arena.
Berndt scored 11 first-quarter points to help the No. 2-seeded Tigers build a quick seven-point lead. From there, the teams played an even-up game, highlighted by Harrisburg building its lead to double digits only to see Stevens use its full-court press to erase the Tigers’ lead again and again.
“We continued to battle and we continued to fight,” third-year Raider coach Michael Brooks said. “Every time they made a run, we made a run right back.”
Stevens’ shooting proved to be its undoing. The seventh-seeded Raiders went 15 for 51 overall and 3-of-19 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We did some uncharacteristic things on 3s, like looking down to see if we're behind the 3-point line. We weren’t locked in and ready to shoot,” Brooks said. “When a team knows you're not hitting, they start to pack it in on defense a little bit more and then forcing kids to take some shots they aren't comfortable with.”
Berndt, who canned four 3-pointers, led the Tigers with 16 points, while Aby Phipps added 10 points and nine points from starter Jeniah Ugofsky.
Forwards Emilee Boyer and Sadie Roth made key plays for Harrisburg off the bench. Both scored six points. Boyer grabbed three of her four rebounds at the offensive end. Defensively, they ate space in the lane, making life tough for Stevens around the basket.
“Our bench does a really nice job coming up big, getting rebounds, getting defensive stops,” Harrisburg coach Nick Mayer said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who can play. They get a chance to step on the floor and they make the most of it.”
Outside shooting set the early tone for the Tigers.
Berndt hit three 3-pointers by the 2:49 mark of the first quarter to push Harrisburg up 11-4.
Stevens countered with a 3 from Kenadi Rising and two free throws from Jayda McNabb to draw within five at 15-10. Berndt provided Harrisburg with a lift right before the quarter break when she converted a steal into a bucket and a 17-10 lead with two ticks left on the clock.
From there, the Raiders used their full-court press to fluster the Tigers over the final three quarters, highlighted the teams trading scoring runs.
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Stevens’s press led to a series of turnovers that resulted in the Raiders knotting the score at 17-all when Grace Martin drained a 3.
Harrisburg countered by outscoring Stevens 12-3 over the back half of the quarter to head into halftime ahead 29-20.
“It was a big psychological thing for us, holding onto that lead. We always got a couple of big buckets and when they were making a run,” Mayer said.
Phipps and Ugofsky hit baskets to push Harrisburg ahead 33-20 early in the third quarter. Stevens’ press forced turnovers that led to baskets by Rising, Martin and Kyah Watson to pull the Raiders within 38-32 with 1:45 left in the third.
Harrisburg got the final bucket of the third quarter to go into the break with a little more breathing room, up eight.
The Raiders mounted one last charge early in the fourth quarter, getting within 40-36 when Bailee Sobczak scored off one of Harrisburg’s 19 turnovers. The Tigers answered with baskets from Brecli Honner and Phipps to stretch the lead back to 44-36 with at the 4:56 mark.
A put-back basket by Watson cut Harrisburg’s lead to 47-40 with 2:37 left, but Ugofsky scored off an offensive rebound and the Tigers hit six straight free throws in the final minute to put the game away.
Watson scored 12 points and Martin added 11 for Stevens.
Brooks was left to lament a game filled with opportunities that too often went unfulfilled, especially at around the basket, where the Raiders had a lot of good looks.
“I didn't think, at times, we were ready to shoot,” Brooks said. “I thought that it was an afterthought, and that is never going to go in.
“We can never fault our effort. We made critical errors and in moments that were big.”
Harrisburg (18-4) advances to the girls AA semifinals, where the Tigers will face Sioux Falls Lincoln at 4:45 p.m. in Barnett Arena. Stevens (15-7) moves into the consolation semifinals, where it will face Sioux Falls Washington at 11 a.m., also in Barnett Arena.