VERMILLION -- Saturday was a special day for the University of South Dakota.

In front of a capacity crowd of 7,415 at the DakotaDome, the South Dakota women’s basketball team closed out its final game in the 37-year old facility in historic fashion.

The Coyotes claimed the Women’s National Invitational Tournament championship by topping Florida Gulf Coast University 71-65 on Saturday in Vermillion. The win was USD’s first postseason championship since the move to Division I and was the first postseason title for any Summit League team.

“I’m just feeling a lot of pride right now for our university, for our athletic department and the state of South Dakota,” USD head coach Amy Williams said after the game. “For our players to be able to experience this and go out on a win, send the Dome out on a win, I’m so incredibly happy.”

Fueled by Tia Hemiller’s 22 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter, the Coyotes never trailed the Eagles in the second half and were able to halt multiple FGCU attempts at a comeback.

“We left shooters open and give them credit, under pressure situations, they knocked the big threes,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said. “We just couldn’t come back after they extended the lead the last time.”

The Eagles (33-6), champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference, cut the Coyotes’ lead down to two points 51-49 with 5 minutes, 55 seconds left in the fourth quarter. USD responded with a layup by Abigial Fogg, a jumper by Nicole Seekamp and two Kelly Stewart 3-pointers in front of the Coyote bench to send the sea of red into a frenzy as USD went ahead 61-53 with 2:16 left on the clock.

“We stuck with what we’ve done all year,” said Seekamp, who was named the WNIT tournament MVP finished the game with seven points, nine rebounds and seven assists. “Being here and being champions is just amazing, especially to do it with these seniors, this team and these coaches has been unreal.”

USD (32-6) shot 44 percent from the field (25-of-49) and outscored FGCU 40-38 in the second half, while dominating the glass. The Coyotes won the rebounding battle 48-31 and finished with 19 assists in the win.

“I’m proud that we were able to stay locked into what got us to this point,” Williams said. “We had just enough and played good enough team defense.”

FGCU went 24-of-65 from the floor for 30 percent shooting in the loss and were led by Kaneisha Atwater’s 25 points, while Taylor Gradinjan and Stephanie Haas added 12 points and 11 points, respectively.

Stewart finished with 12 points and five rebounds, while Fogg added 10 points for USD.

The Coyotes closed the first half on a 10-2 run to take a 31-27 lead into the break after trailing 25-21 with 8 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

South Dakota opened the game with 19-18 lead after one quarter, when Fogg hit a bucket as the first period buzzer sounded.

FGCU 18 27 38 65

USD 19 31 45 71

Florida Gulf Coast (33-6)

DyTiesha Dunson 2-5 1-2 5 Kaneisha Atwater 8-17 7-8 25 Whitney Knight 2-12 1-2 6 Jaime Gluesing 1-4 0-0 3 Taylor Gradinjan 5-10 0-0 12 Jessica Cattani 1-1 0-0 3 Katie Meador 0-4 0-0 0 Bethany Murrell 0-0 0-0 0 Tayler Goodall 0-0 0-0 0 Stephanie Haas 5-12 1-4 11 Haley Laughter 0-0 0-0 0 Sydnei McCaskill 0-0 0-0 0 TOTALS 24-65 10-16 65

South Dakota (32-6)

Margaret McCloud 1-5 0-2 2 Tia Hemiller 6-11 8-10 22 Jasmine Trimboli 2-3 0-0 4 Kelly Stewart 4-8 1-2 12 Nicole Seekamp 3-15 1-2 7 Jaycee Bradley 0-1 2-2 2 Madeline Homoly 0-0 0-0 0 Caitlin Duffy 2-3 2-2 8 K Bridget Arens 0-0 0-0 0 Caitlin Duffy 2-3 2-2 8 Kate Liveringhouse 2-4 0-0 4 Heidi Hoff 0-0 0-0 0 Abigail Fogg 5-9 0-0 10 TOTALS 25-59 14-20 71

3-point goals: FGCU 7-22 (Dunson 0-1, Atwater 2-5, Knight 1-7, -1, Haas 0-1, Gluesing 1-2, Gradinjan 2-4, Cattani 1-1, Meador 0-1) SD 7-18 (Hemiller 2-5, Stewart 3-5, Seekamp 0-5, Bradley 0-1, Duffy 2-2); Rebounds: FGCU 31 (Haas 6, Gradinjan 6), SD (Seekamp 9, Fogg 9); Assists: FGCU 10 (Dunson 4), SD 19 (Seekamp 8); Blocks: FGCU 10 (Knight 9); SD: 9 (Stewart 3); Steals: FGCU 4 (Knight 2); SD 4 (Trimboli 2); Turnovers: FGCU 7, USD 14; Fouls: FGCU 19, SD 19; Attendance: 7,415

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