Winner makes 1st final since 1990, beats EPJ
SPEARFISH — Winner point guard Kelsey Bertram knows what it feels like to compete in a state title game.
As a member of the Warrior volleyball team, the junior helped Winner to a runner-up finish at the Class A volleyball tournament this fall, and she wanted another shot at a state championship.
Bertram scored 18 points to helped her team beat Elk Point-Jefferson 59-55 to send Winner to the Class A state girls’ basketball championship.
The Warriors (23-1) take on No. 1 seed St. Thomas More at 9 p.m. CDT today in Spearfish. This will be the first state finals appearance for the Warriors since 1990, when Winner lost to Sisseton.
“It was a great effort by our team and I am just so proud of everyone,” Bertram said after the game. “We know how second place feels and we didn’t like it, so I just hope we can pull it out.”
Winner did all it could to dispose of the Huskies, but Elk Point-Jefferson (21-3) would not go away.
Winner went on a 9-0 run to start the third quarter and take a 34-24 lead. On defense, the Warriors packed it in and played zone for the early minutes of the third quarter.
EPJ answered Winner’s run with a seven-point run of its own to get back in the game.
The Huskies cut the Winner deficit to two points with a minute to go in the third, but Winner scored four points to close out the quarter and take a 40-34 advantage heading into the fourth.
The Warriors looked poised to pull away with a victory after building a 43-36 lead with 7 minutes to go in the fourth, but EPJ senior forward Keeley Bertram had other ideas.
“I told the girls before the game that this is going to be a good high school basketball game,” EPJ coach Gary Nebelsick said. “We were down 10 and we could have folded, but a lot of compliments to my girls because they didn’t. They battled back and instead of going our own way, we battle back together and started getting nice looks and nice baskets.”
The guard hit two 3-pointers to tie the game up at 48. Keeley Bertram finished the game with 14 points, while McKenzie Mennenga finished with a team-high 15 points for the Huskies.
But Friday was the Warriors’ night, and they where not to be denied as Kesley Bertram and Katie Mathis hit key free throws down the stretch. Mathis made 5 of 8 free throws and finished with nine points for Winner, which shot 18-of-44 from the field.
“We just got up to the free-throw line and knocked them in with all the confidence in the world,” Winner coach Larry Aaker said. “Elk Point-Jefferson has a heck of a team. Keeley Bertram is one of the best players in the state and McKenzie Mennenga is no slouch for a sophomore. It was back and forth, the girls kept battling. They are playing with a lot of confidence and that is a lot of credit to them.”
Tawny Sherman came off the bench for Winner and knocked down two 3-pointers in the first half, while Cassidy Hanson also had six points. Hanson finished with 11 points and six rebounds, while Sherman finished with eight.
EPJ plays Sioux Valley for third place at 7 p.m. CDT today.
WINNER 59, ELK POINT-JEFFERSON 55
WINNER (23-1): Horstman 1-1 0-0 2, K.Mathis 0-4 2-2 2, Calhoon 1-4 2-2 4, Bertram 5-14 6-6 18, K.Mathis 2-4 5-8 9, Husher 1-6 3-4 5, Sherman 3-3 0-0 8, Hanson 5-8 1-1 11. Totals: 18-44 19-23 59.
EPJ (21-2): Donnelly 0-4 1-2 1, Mennenga 5-17 1-2 15, Hanson 4-7 3-4 11, Zeller 2-3 1-2 5, Curry 4-5 1-1 9, Bertram 5-13 2-3 14. Totals: 20-49 9-14 55.
W 11 25 40 59
EPJ 11 24 34 55
3-pointers: Winner 4-12 (K.Mathis 0-1, Calhoon 0-1, Bertram 2-7, Husher 0-1, Sherman 2-2), EPJ 6-20 (Donnelly 0-3, Mennenga 4-14, Bertram 2-3). Rebounds: Winner 35 (Bertram, 7), EPJ 26 (Hanson 7). Assists: Winner 13 (4 with 3), EPJ 14 Donnelly 4). Total fouls: Winner 14, EPJ 18. Fouled out: Mennenga.