South Dakota State women's basketball team wins Summit League tourney for third straight seasonSIOUX FALLS — A celebration has prolonged Kristin Rotert’s career.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
SIOUX FALLS — A celebration has prolonged Kristin Rotert’s career.
With a large smile on her face, the senior on the South Dakota State women’s basketball team climbed a ladder to cut down the final piece of net Tuesday, following a win over Oakland in the Summit League tournament championship at Sioux Falls Arena.
Rotert, a Salem native, played a major role in SDSU’s third consecutive Summit League tournament championship, a feat that’s never been accomplished by any women’s basketball team in the conference before this year. She was named the tournament’s most valuable player and scored a team-high 17 points in the third-seeded Jackrabbits’ 61-54 win over fourth-seeded Oakland (Mich.) to earn an automatic berth in the NCAA Division I national basketball tournament for the third straight year.
“I really want my career to go on as long as it possibly can,” Rotert said during a post-game press conference. “I knew that every game could potentially be my last, and every second I’m on the floor I want to do everything I possibly can to help our program win and keep my career going and keep playing with the wonderful teammates I have.”
Rotert — who was named to the all-tournament team for the second straight year — moved into eighth on the career scoring charts with 1,477 points for the Jackrabbits, who won their eighth straight and for the 11th time in the past 12 games after starting the season 4-9.
She knocked down two free throws with 14.9 seconds left to give her team a seven-point lead and celebrated with Mitchell native and teammate Jill Young as the final horn sounded.
Young, a Mitchell Christian graduate, finished with one point and a team-high nine rebounds.
“This is amazing to experience this three times,” Young said while celebrating with teammates, family and friends. “Kristin and I go way back and, I think for the third time now, we’ve jumped in each other’s arms after the game. … It’s really fun to be able to share this with her.”
SDSU defeated NDSU in the quarterfinals Sunday and knocked off second-seeded IPFW Monday in the semifinals to move to the championship . The Jackrabbits traded baskets early against Oakland and held a four-point halftime advantage, but never trailed in the second half.
Oakland got within one, 42-41, with about 12 minutes to play, but an 11-2 run that included one of Rotert’s three 3-pointers put the Jackrabbits up by 10 with 5:34 to go. Oakland got within three with 1:56 left on the clock, but SDSU’s defense never allowed another bucket.
For the third straight year, the tournament was held at Sioux Falls Arena. Tuesday’s game had an attendance of 4,071, which was by far the smallest crowd in the three championships. In 2009, SDSU became the first-ever No. 1 seed to win the Summit League tournament and defeated Oakland in front of 5,580 fans. Last year, third-seeded SDSU knocked off top-seeded Oral Roberts in front of 5,460 fans.
Still, Tuesday’s crowd — almost entirely SDSU fans — got loud late in the game. After the awards were handed out and the all-tournament team was announced, families and friends stood on the court and watched players cut down pieces of the net for keepsake — a recurring tradition for the SDSU women the past three years.
Pairings for the national tournament will be released at 6 p.m. Monday on ESPN.
“I like the way we’re playing right now,” Rotert said. “We’re confident and we’re playing together. We know wherever we end up, the tournament’s going to be a tough challenge, but we’ll embrace it and play the best that we can.”
NOTES: Young ended a streak of 22 consecutive games with a 3-point basket. She went 0-of-4 from behind the 3-point line. … Rotert was 3-of-6 from 3-point range, putting her in a tie for SDSU’s career record with 250 made 3-pointers.