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Winner falls to St. Thomas More in the Class A state final

Winner's Kelsey Bertram, left, brings the ball up court as she is guarded by a St. Thomas More defender during the Class A girls' basketball championship game Saturday at the Young Center in Spearfish. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)2 / 2

SPEARFISH — Nothing seemed to go right for the Winner Warriors girls’ basketball team in its matchup with St. Thomas More in the Class A state championship final.

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The Warriors had trouble with turnovers, couldn’t find the bottom of the net and couldn’t stop St. Thomas More, which cruised to a 70-39 victory Saturday at the Young Center.

The Warriors were 11-of-47 from the field and had 15 turnovers. Winner got off to a rough start offensively by shooting 17 percent in the first half. The Warriors were also 1-of-8 from behind the arc.

“I am super proud of our effort,” Winner coach Larry Aaker said. “St. Thomas More has a heck of a ball club. They are very well coached, very well disciplined and they don’t make any mistakes. They also shot the ball really well, so you have to give them all the credit. My girls battled and gave me all their effort so I am proud of them.”

Leading the charge for the St. Thomas More defense was Alexys Swedlund and Moira Duffy, who each had two steals. Both players made it difficult for the Warriors to complete passes into the post by stepping into passing lanes. Swedlund also grabbed 10 rebounds and scored 28 points for a double-double, while Duffy also grabbed 10 rebounds and scored four points.

The Cavaliers were also aided by the many three-point shots that found the bottom of the net in their favor, going 10-of-19 from behind the arc.

Ciara Duffy drilled four threes for the Cavaliers, three of which came in the first half. She finished with 17 points and five assists and Swedlund added three 3-pointers for the Cavaliers, which shot 52 percent from behind the arc and 27-of-52 from the field.

“We started off well on the defensive end and finally got some shots to start falling,” St. Thomas coach Brandon Kandolin said. “We are a very well balanced team and we have a great group from top to bottom. Moira had a good game down low for us. She got the ball in the post and kicked it out to our shooters who were able to make shots.”

Fighting away opening-minute jitters, St. Thomas More jumped out to an 11-5 lead behind Ciara Duffy, who scored nine of the Cavaliers’ first 11 points. St. Thomas More continued to hit threes and pull away from the Warriors. Little by little the Cavaliers’ lead grew to 18 points as St. Thomas More took a 37-19 advantage into halftime.

The Warriors continued to mix up their defenses and try to new offensive approaches in the second half, but it was to no avail. Winner couldn’t find an answer to slow down the Cavaliers and couldn’t get things going on the offensive end.

No Warrior scored in double figures as Katie Mathis had a team-high eight points and Kennede Mathis scored seven points. Cassidy Hanson had two points and seven rebounds.

“We knew coming into the game that St. Thomas More was a fast-paced team,” Mathis said. “But they just got off to a good start and their defense was really good.”

The Warriors end their season 23-2, earning their first runner-up finish since 1990. St. Thomas More ends its season 23-1.