The No. 20/12 South Dakota Coyotes (27-2, 16-0 conf.) clinched the regular-season Summit League Championship after defeating North Dakota 76-47.
The starting five included all four seniors who were celebrating senior day and junior Chloe Lamb. The seniors Megan Bonar, Madison McKeever, Ciara Duffy and Taylor Fredrick have all played for the Coyotes for four seasons and accumulated two undefeated seasons in conference play in three years and have been key in this season’s historic campaign.
“Getting to celebrate with this community that has been with us the last four years has been a family for us,” Duffy said. “We knew coming in that this was going to be a special team and one of the reasons for that was that we took it one game at a time.”
The first quarter against the Fighting Hawks started off back and forth with the Coyotes gaining control at the end of the quarter 13-11.
Classmates Duffy and Fredrick totaled 17 and 15 points respectively. Monica Arens and Hannah Sjerven both totaled 11 points.
By the third quarter, the Coyotes found their rhythm and increased their shooting percentage to 68% from the field, while making 100% of their three-pointers and free throws. Duffy said the energy came from the emotion of the seniors during their final half in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.
“I think right away we were really emotional and knowing that it was the last time we would be playing on this court, emotions were high,” Duffy said. “We knew we had to buckle down and play the game.”
The Coyotes scored 40 points from the paint and remained in the lead the rest of the game. As seniors left the court for the last time, the 3,863 fans in attendance applauded the quartet.
However, Bonar said the regular-season champions still have to work toward the Summit League Tournament in order to win the tournament championship and a berth into the NCAA championship tournament.
“Getting back into the gym and focusing on ourselves and figuring out what the other teams did really well against us and where we struggled and going back in and focusing on us this whole week and fine-tuning things,” Bonar said.
The Summit League Tournament will be held in the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, the games will be played March 7-10. The Coyotes face Omaha at noon Saturday.