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It doesn't really matter what the matchup is, in the one-game-and-you're-out scenario, nerves do pop up.

So No. 3 versus No. 14 might have caused a few early jitters for the Rapid City Stevens girls' basketball team, it wasn't for long before the Raiders' defense took over and clamped down, as they stopped Sioux Falls Roosevelt 46-23 Friday in a Round of 16 game at Carold Heier Gymnasium.

With the win, the Raiders, 18-3, will advance to the Class AA state tournament March 15-17 in Sioux Falls.

It was a tight first half, with the Raiders only up 23-17 at halftime. But Stevens allowed just six points in the final 16 minutes and had more than enough offense to pull away.

"The first half we were a little nervous, because we have only one game to go to state," Stevens senior Sydney Smith said. "We got together and talked about how we needed to get our heads together and started to play some defense, so it worked out well."

Stevens coach Michael Brooks said it is communication that enables the Raiders to play as well as they do on defense and it enabled them to get over a little case of the nerves.

"I think it was a big moment for the seniors and their last game at home. I think that can sometimes affect you and not allow you to hit on all cylinders right away," he said. "And we haven't played for a week. I just don't think we were as focused and as communicative at that time."

But that defense was the name of the game in the second half as Roosevelt scored just two points in the third and four in the fourth. Stevens scored the first 10 points of the second half to open up a 16-point lead before taking a 33-19 advantage into the fourth.

Smith was a catalyst offensive in the third as a steal and layup and 3-pointer got the team going, with senior Elizabeth Schaefer adding a 3-pointer. Smith also hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring in the fourth.

"That felt good. In the first half they weren't falling, and I felt a little frustrated," Smith said. "But it wasn't about me, it was about the team. We just needed to get the win. After that, my shots started falling."

Schaefer, who had four steals, said they take pride in their defense and they know that pleases their coach.

"We get our momentum from it," Schaefer said. "Our third quarter, they only scored two points, so our defensive intensity is what changed it all."

Brooks said the Raiders missed several open shots to begin the game and just didn't have a rhythm for their offense. Yet, he said they didn't let that dictate how they played on the defensive end.

"That is the one thing that has been our constant this year is great intensity and effort on the defensive end," he said. "Once we were able to regroup at halftime, we came out and held them to six points. The deciding factor was locking in and being resound with our defensive effort."

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Roosevelt, which ended the season at 4-17, shot just 24 percent from the field and had just seven field goals.

Smith led all scorers with 16 points, while sophomore Kyah Watson added 14 for the Raiders, who were 18-of-47 from the field, hitting 8-of-22 3-pointers.

Macey Nielson scored 10 points for Roosevelt.

"We have to work hard next week because there are a lot of teams going to state. We want to get that state championship, so we have to work hard in practice," Smith said.

While the state tournament is still just less than two weeks away, both the Raiders said this is no time to take it easy.

"We need to improve every practice, and just improve every practice," Schaefer said. "We have to focus one game at a time."

With what happened to them injury-wise this season, Brooks said they are still not peaking. He said they have to use the upcoming practices to allow  them to peak as well as add new things in to what they have been able to exploit.

"I'm excited to see who our matchup can be so we can begin the film process, so we can begin dissecting how we need to be and how we need to play, and how we need to win," he said. "We have a great blueprint of what we normally do, but it is always fun to get that study in and grow as a unit over the next 10 days."

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.