The Williston State College women's basketball season came to an end over the weekend after the team fell in the championship game in the Mondak Conference Regional Tournament.
It ends after a great season for the team, who finished with a record of 20-11. After a slow start, the Lady Tetons found their groove in the second half of the season and continue rolling until the conference tournament.
"I thought the season as a whole was a bit of a roller coaster. We didn't have (Emily) Kurkowski those first nine or 10 games. Once we got her back and everyone started getting a little bit better, we started to improve and we started to understand what we wanted out of them," Head Coach Bill Triplett said.
"We came back after Christmas and started to roll and as the season went on they started to believe in themselves more and believe in their teammates," Triplett said.
The semifinals were a highlight over the weekend as the Lady Tetons beat Miles Community College, 57-56, from an all-around-great effort from everyone on the team — Elizabeth Field and Kylee Old Elk each had 11 points and Canzas Hisbadhorse put up 16.
Kurkowski, one of the Tetons' leading scorers, left the game with an injury in the second half.
"We lost Emily in the third quarter and we were down by one, and we ended up winning by double figures. So I think that losing Emily was a blow to us but we have some more-than-capable players. We are pretty deep. And they rallied together and everyone chipped in."
Sometimes when a player goes down multiple other players step up, and that's exactly what happened, Triplett said.
"Losing Emily hurt because she scores for us and points are hard to come by, especially when you play a team for the fourth time in a season, you know them so well and they know you so it hurt losing her there but I think everyone else banded together and stepped up and a lot of times that's what happens when you lose a person and that's kind of what happened to us," Triplett said.
Hisbadhorse has made an emergence into a more predominate role off the bench with the Tetons after her great play in the final stretch of the season.
"Another factor is Canzas Hisbadhorse has been playing so well off the bench," Triplett said. "She has steadily improved throughout the season and she has just earned a right to be out there, she really helps us."
The Lady Tetons faced up against North Dakota School of Science in the championship round. They're one of the only teams the Tetons have struggled against this season, losing three matchups against them in the regular season.
"I think there so multi-faceted. They've got all the parts, they have a really, really quick point guard that can shoot it. They have (Arrianna) Berryhill, one of the best shooters in the conference. They are just solid all around you can't really take one thing away from them," Triplett said
Entering the championship game, the team was ready to lay it all on the floor against their conference foe.
The team went down early in the first period but rallied back in the second period, giving them a 36-31 lead going into halftime. The Wildcats would come out of the second half hitting three pointers, giving them the lead going into the fourth quarter. And the Wildcats held onto that lead and took home the Mondak Conference Regional Championship, 71-63.
The Tetons played their best game against the Wildcats this season, but scoring at the free throw line gave the Wildcats the edge.
"We really battled them defensively I think that we probably made more buckets than them. It's just that we sent them to the free throw line 27 times and we only got the free throw line 12. That's kind of what happens when you play at somebody's house," Triplett said. "There were other parts of the game that we actually won, we out hustled them, we were more intense than them, we got to all the 50-50 balls."
The Tetons left everything they had on the floor that game, Triplett said.
"Even though we didn't win the game and the final score wasn't really indicative of the game. We did our best we don't have anything the hang our heads about we let it all hang out we knew we were the underdogs, but we went in there and gave them all they wanted," he said.
Four sophomores are leaving the team this year, meaning there will be a lot of open spots in the starting lineup in the next season.
"We had four sophomores back from last year's team so we knew that we would be starting one freshman," Triplett said. "But we also knew our entire second team was going to be freshman. I thought that from day one until the final day of the year they improved a ton. We've got a pretty good nucleus, especially with Fields and Hisbadhorse."
Losing two key bigs in sophomores Sydney Labette and Irene de La Fuente is going to be the focus in recruiting in the offseason.
All four sophomores will be a loss to the team as their play during their career has been exceptional for the team.
"Sydney, Irene, Emily, and Hayley — those four have really, really, really meant a lot to the program," Triplett said. "They really helped a lot with the freshman class this year and I just want to give them a pat on the back because they mean a lot to me and it's always a sad day when they walk out the door. But I appreciate them a lot they are great people and great representatives of Williston State College."