VERMILLION, S.D. (USD) — South Dakota battled with Denver before dropping the final home game of the season to the Pioneers 79-74 Saturday inside the Sanford Coyote Sports Center. The win for Denver puts the season series at a tie with each team winning its road contest.
Carley Duffney and Morgan Hansen led South Dakota (12-15, 8-8 Summit) with 20 and 13 points, respectively. Grace Larkins and Walker Demers each added 12 points apiece, while Larkins grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to record her seventh double-double on the season.
Mikayla Brandon scored 25 points to lead Denver (12-16, 8-9) and was one rebound shy of a double-double. Emma Smith added 13 points and Ally Haar had 12 points.
The opening quarter was a back-and-forth battle that ended with Denver holding a two-point lead. The Coyotes came out and took control in the second quarter, outscoring the Pioneers 25-16 while knocking down 4-of-8 threes and shooting 58 percent from the field. The Yotes went into halftime leading 41-34.
The Pioneers came out of the break hot and it only took a few possessions for them to cut the lead back down to three. The third quarter was another hard-fought, evenly matched battle that ended in yet another tie, with both teams scoring 20 points. Denver took advantage of the momentum shift and outscored the Coyotes 25-13 in the fourth quarter.
An 11-2 run for the Pioneers tied the game at 65 two minutes into the final quarter. Brandon’s 22nd point of the night gave Denver its first lead of the quarter and it held until a fast-break layup from Nicole Avila-Ambrosi tied the game at 74-74 with 1:12 to play. Denver held the advantage of being in the bonus and used it to their advantage, forcing South Dakota to foul and knocking down 5-of-6 foul shots in the final minute of play.
“It’s a disappointed locker room, not the way we wanted to end our home games here this season,” said head coach Kayla Karius. “However, we have got to find a way to get better from it.”
Before the game, South Dakota honored its three seniors, Macy GuebertJeniah Ugofsky, and Allison Peplowski. Guebert leads the Coyotes in minutes played this season, averaging 33.6 minutes per game. Ugofksy started the year battling an injury and ultimately the injury ended her season prematurely. Peplowski has also been recovering from injury that’s kept her out this season.
“Our seniors have been phenomenal all year,” said Karius. “Macy’s had the chance to play a lot more this year and she’s handled that in stride. Jeniah got the chance to play earlier this season but then got her senior year cut short by an injury and then Allison didn’t even get a chance to play her senior year.
“That’s always difficult because the most experienced kids that have been in those big moments down the stretch are the ones sitting on the bench. It’s tough, but I can’t say enough about these seniors. They’re wonderful people and these three have brought so much to our program, they really mean a lot to us.”
South Dakota concludes the regular season by traveling to Kansas City Thursday and Oral Roberts Saturday.