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Bailee Sobczak, of Rapid City Stevens, looks to pass the ball during a game against Rapid City Central at Naasz Gymnasium.

Responding to adversity can go either way at any level, and the Rapid City Stevens girls' basketball team has had its fair share to deal with in the past couple of seasons.

Head coach Michael Brooks likes the way they have handled some ups and downs as of late.

The Raiders will go into the Class AA State Basketball Tournament as the No. 7 seed when they face No. 2 Harrisburg Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Ice Arena of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Last season the Raiders lost two starters to ACL injuries, while this season struggled through a bit of a late funk before righting the ship heading to the championships.

A 52-44 loss to cross-town rival Rapid City Central capped a three-game skid before the Raiders bounced back in a big win to throttle Spearfish 90-32 and easily handle Yankton 55-31 in the SoDak 16.

Just at the right time.

"Sometimes you go through adversity, sometimes you lose a couple of games," Brooks said. "I think the stretch versus the Sioux Falls teams where we didn't get to practice and the loss versus Central really inspired our kids to refocus, to get after each other and really not take any moments that we have for granted as a team."

Stevens, 15-6, might suddenly be playing its best at the right time.

"Our last game against Yankton we played one of the best games that we have played all season," said senior Elizabeth Schaefer said. "We are excited and that gives us a lot of confidence coming into the state tournament knowing we can execute correctly and carry out a game-plan."

Junior Grace Martin agreed with her teammate.

"I feel we're playing good as a team, our effort is way up there," Martin said. "We're coming together and now is the time that we need to."

Brooks likes their tempo the last two games and he feels they know what they have to do to win. Seedings in this field aren't all that relevant at this point.

"If you look at the No. 1 team (Sioux Falls O'Gorman), we played them to a six-point game and the previous couple of years they weren't able to beat us," he said. "I think we can beat anybody and that is exactly why we got to this point because we have that belief in ourselves. We know we are just as good as anybody, we just need to play that way."

At the same time, the Raiders don't really mind going in as a lower seed than in the past couple of seasons.

"There's definitely less pressure going in, and I feel we play good when we are in that situation," Schaefer said. "But I also feel that we are ready and intense. We've had good practices this week, so I am excited."

Martin said that they don't have as much pressure on our backs, so they need to just come out and play.

"I think we're ready to play like we know how to and play together," Martin said.

The Raiders have been paced all season by University of South Dakota recruit, junior Kyah Watson, who leads the team in scoring at 13.1 points a game, along with 5.5 rebounds, while Martin is scoring 7.7 points a game and freshman Bailee Sobczak at 7.0 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.

Brooks has been pleased going into the tournament with his team's defensive intensity to a game-plan.

"I think that is major for a team that starts a freshman and a sophomore, and a kid coming off an ACL," he said. "It's paying attention to who the shooter is, understanding the game-plan, and being able to execute it. That is major for this team."

Brooks also said the Raiders have shown some physicality at times this season, something that hasn't always been there in the past.

 "I love that for this team because they kind of got upset about that and the way people talk about them, talk about basketball on this side of the state," he said. "They want to be physical and they want to create contact, which is a lot different than previous teams here."

Harrisburg is 17-2 on the season and earned a state tournament berth with a 63-35 win over Sioux Falls Roosevelt.

The Tigers are led by Jeniah Ugofsky at 11.7 points and 9.2 rebounds a game, followed by Aby Phipps at 9.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg and Kiki Berndt and Brecli Honner, both at 8.0 ppg.

Brooks doesn't see any clear-cut favorite in the tournament.

"There are great players on every team. Every team has a stud," he said. "It will be the teams that can game-plan the best to stop the other team's stud. For us, I think we're one of the teams that has a lot of flexibility of kids who can play multiple positions. We can play five guards and we can play two bigs. We can do multiple things."

The winner will face the Sioux Falls Lincoln-Washington winner in Friday's semifinals.


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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.