Remembering The "Old Barn"

Remembering The "Old Barn"

Editor's Note: The feature below originally ran in the 2014 Summit League Basketball Championships program, March 8-11 in Sioux Falls, S.D.


As The Summit League Basketball Championships enter the sixth, and final, season at historic Sioux Falls Arena, it is a time to look back at memories of those involved with the tournament during that era. Described by ESPN as a classic "old barn", Sioux Falls Arena has produced its share of unforgettable moments in Summit League history. From Ben Woodside's winning jumper in the waning seconds of the first men's title game in 2009 to the ultimate rivalry game for the 2013 women's championship, record crowds have descended on the venerable facility and witnessed the greatest period of the league's premier event.

Players, coaches, media and fans recall memorable moments from The Summit League Basketball Championships at Sioux Falls Arena, and describe the tournament experience and uniqueness of the arena.



Hoops History, Hysteria and Heartbreak

The memories are plentiful. Many are euphoric in victory. Some are painful in defeat. There are even a few lighter moments.

AMY WILLIAMS
(SOUTH DAKOTA HEAD COACH, 2013-PRESENT)
I remember watching high school state tournament games when I was a young girl, and to have the opportunity to coach our team there is special for me.

RON HUNTER
(IUPUI HEAD COACH, 2009-11)
In the 2010 championship, we were playing Oakland and we had a long delay. I had picked up a cell phone off the scorer's table and called [Oakland coach] Greg Kampe because an official told me I could not walk down to talk to him. I picked up the phone to act like I was dialing him. It was pretty funny and I will always remember that.

LEROY NOBLES
(IUPUI, 2009-11)
My single greatest memory of playing in the championships was having that big game [against Kansas City in 2011] when I had 37 [points] my senior season. I would also say making it to the championship game my junior year and playing on ESPN [in 2010].

TERELL PARKS
(WESTERN ILLINOIS, 2011-12)
My single greatest moment has to be my game-winner against Oral Roberts to send us to the championship game my junior season [2012]. I will remember defeating Oral Roberts in the semifinal, then dropping an overtime contest to South Dakota State by two points in the title game. It was great to play on ESPN2 but it was a tough loss. A win would have sent us to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

JD GRAVINA
(WESTERN ILLINOIS HEAD COACH, 2012-PRESENT)
Winning the No. 7 vs. 2 [2012 quarterfinal] game against Oral Roberts. The place was rocking with all of the South Dakota State fans rooting for us. Nothing like an upset in postseason basketball!

AMANDA HYDE
(FORT WAYNE, 2011-PRESENT)
Hands down, my favorite memory was our semifinal game in 2013 when we beat Western Illinois in double overtime. From that game, my favorite moment was Stefanie Mauk hitting a three to send it into the first overtime. I can still picture that shot in my head and I don't think I will ever forget her reaction afterward. It was priceless.

JEREMY HOECK
(YANKTON PRESS & DAKOTAN)
Watching South Dakota State and South Dakota meet in the 2013 women's championship game was by far one of the best atmospheres I've been in during my career. Seeing an arena filled to the brim was amazing and then to experience that noise was incredible. The game didn't disappoint, either. To have that level of excitement and interest for a women's basketball game, to me, shows the passion for athletics in the upper Midwest.

Several defining plays are etched in the memories of competitors and spectators through the years. The first Summit League Tournament held in Sioux Falls produced the most dramatic ending of the Sioux Falls Arena era's initial five years. North Dakota State's Ben Woodside, the tournament MVP, hit the game-winning jumper with 3.3 seconds remaining to lift the Bison to their first appearance in the NCAA's "Big Dance".

TOM DOUPLE
(SUMMIT LEAGUE COMMISSIONER)
There have been several great games and many highly competitive games. However, when North Dakota State's Ben Woodside hit the winning shot in the 2009 Championship Game, the excitement of the fans' reaction is when I knew the tournament was really going to be successful in Sioux Falls. That moment really defined that entire tournament. It was a great and exciting game that came down to the final seconds.

SAUL PHILLIPS
(NORTH DAKOTA STATE HEAD COACH, 2009-PRESENT)
Certainly, Ben Woodside's shot to send us to the NCAA Tournament stands out for me. We had really struggled all night with Oakland and they had a terrific team. We had run a play similar to that one at their place earlier in the year, almost the same exact scenario. In that one, Woodside had got to the rim, Keith Benson came over, he got the shot off, but the ball rolled around the rim and out. After that game, I told Woody forget about that one because you're going to have a chance to do the same thing on a bigger stage. He pulled up on the shot instead of taking it to the rim and I remember when he got it off, I knew it was in as soon as it left his hands. The thing people forget was the three seconds afterward where Johnathon Jones comes down, drives to half court, throws up a heave, and from my perspective that thing was dead on the whole way. When it bounced off and I saw fans starting to storm the court it didn't hit me right away that we're going to the NCAA Tournament. It still brings goose bumps to me to think about that moment.

BEN WOODSIDE
(NORTH DAKOTA STATE, 2009)
The single greatest memory or moment for me would be the 2009 Championship Game, when I hit the game-winner to send us into the NCAA Tournament. The thing I will remember most is when our fans rushed the court.


TERRY VANDROVEC
(SIOUX FALLS ARGUS-LEADER)
The scene of North Dakota State's star guard Ben Woodside being tackled by Bison fans after hitting the game-winner late in the [2009] championship game that sent NDSU to the NCAA Tournament in its first year of eligibility.

TODD ANDERSON
(FAN)
Bison going to the 'Big Dance' [in 2009] ... best sporting experience of my life!

The 2012 Men's Quarterfinal between Oakland and Southern Utah produced one of the greatest comebacks in tournament history. The underdog Thunderbirds trailed the two-time defending tournament champion Golden Grizzlies 81-70 with two and a half minutes remaining. Southern Utah outscored Oakland 14-1 from that point and achieved an improbable victory.

JACKSON STEVENETT
(SOUTHERN UTAH, 2010-12)
My greatest memory of The Summit League Tournament would either be when we beat Oakland in the first round [2012] and had the entire crowd cheering us on or when my teammate Damon Heuir made ESPN's Not Top Ten list by crashing into the water cooler and he and I had to swap shorts in front of everyone.

RICK LINDNER
(TOURNAMENT VOLUNTEER)
Southern Utah's miracle comeback victory over Oakland [in the 2012 quarterfinal] that included the nation's leading scorer missing key free throws down the stretch.

The 2012 Women's Championship Game between South Dakota State and Kansas City was one of the most memorable in tournament history. The top-seeded Jackrabbits overcame a deep deficit to force overtime, where they eventually captured their record fourth-straight Summit League Championship and NCAA Tournament berth.

JENNIE (SUNNARBORG) RINTALA
(SOUTH DAKOTA STATE, 2009-12)
The celebration at half court my senior year after beating Kansas City [in the 2012 championship game] was probably the most memorable because it had the most emotions. I could feel the roar of the crowd through my whole body. It was the feeling of accomplishment that every athlete desires.

JILL (YOUNG) SARGENT
(SOUTH DAKOTA STATE, 2009-12)
Winning the championship game my senior year [2012]. We came back from a 17-point deficit to win by one in overtime. We had so many different players make huge plays down the stretch and the atmosphere in the arena was amazing.

DAYON HALL-JONES
(KANSAS CITY, 2009-12)
My single greatest memory from the tournament was my senior year when we lost to South Dakota State in the [2012] championship game by one point in overtime. I will never forget that day because the game was so intense. Every play was like life or death. According to everyone else, we weren't supposed to be in the championship game, but we were and almost won.

South Dakota State earned its first NCAA Tournament appearance with a victory in the 2012 Men's Championship Game. The Jackrabbits did it the hard way by rallying late, forcing overtime, and winning by two points.

NATE WOLTERS
(SOUTH DAKOTA STATE, 2010-13)
My best memory would probably be the first time we played in the championship game (2012) against Western Illinois. The atmosphere was great and it was a close game. We struggled most of the game, but found a way to win. The environment was just crazy that night. Obviously, our school had not been to the NCAA Tournament before, so that whole night was a cool experience after we won.

CLAY MATVICK
(ESPN)
My greatest memory from The Summit League Tournament was calling the 2012 men's championship game. I covered South Dakota State for KDLT-TV in 1996 and 1997 when the Jackrabbits were a Division II power. Watching the Jacks defeat Western Illinois in overtime and secure their first trip to the NCAA Tournament brought back a lot of memories from the early days of my career and it was great to see the program reach such an important milestone.

BRAD NEWITT
(MIDCO SPORTS NETWORK)
Seeing the Sioux Falls Arena sold out for the 2012 Summit League Championship Game between South Dakota State and Western Illinois and thinking "Wow, this is a really awesome environment for a conference tournament that even a lot of high-major conferences won't get".


Embracing the Experience
Long after the game outcomes have been forgotten, memories of the tournament experience live on. For many, it was not about winning and losing, but rather being part of an unforgettable event.

JOHN THUNE
(U.S. SENATOR, SOUTH DAKOTA)
Bringing The Summit League Tournament to the Sioux Falls Arena has given the region more exposure to March Madness. As a high school hooper and a huge fan of the game, I have appreciated the opportunity to take in some top quality college basketball. With more teams from the region joining the league, the fans  who have followed them, create an atmosphere of excitement in the arena.

MIKE HUETHER
(SIOUX FALLS MAYOR)
For one week in Sioux Falls, we take an old-fashioned 50-plus year old arena and turn it into a heart-pounding, memory-making basketball wonderland. The only 'juice' we need to pump us up are the players, coaches and fans working their tails off to attain the ultimate goal of competing in the big dance. Every time I hear ESPN mention Sioux Falls or The Summit League, I get goose bumps!

TERRY VANDROVEC
[The Summit League Tournament made] the state of South Dakota's entry into NCAA Division I sports seem legitimate. The fans have embraced this tournament despite initial hesitation about the [school's] reclassification process.

KEVIN LAMPE
(SIOUX FALLS SPORTS AUTHORITY AND SANFORD HEALTH)
The wonderful and appreciative student-athletes from across the conference and the exceptional Summit League staff are memorable.

AARON JOHNSTON
(SOUTH DAKOTA STATE HEAD COACH, 2009-PRESENT)
The best thing about The Summit League Tournament at the Sioux Falls Arena is the atmosphere. The fan support and media attention create a unique memory for all of the participants. Very few collegiate women's basketball players will ever get the chance to experience this level of excitement and energy.

JERRY FINKBEINER
(ORAL ROBERTS HEAD COACH, 2009-12)
The city was very accommodating and was an excitable place to play a women's conference championship.

GREG KAMPE
(OAKLAND HEAD COACH, 2009-12)
The friendliness of the people and the first-class event they ran. Everyone in the community opened their arms and embraced The Summit League.

SAUL PHILLIPS
The thing that makes Sioux Falls neat is the people around the tournament. They are clearly excited to have the tournament and they act accordingly. I've got very good friends in Sioux Falls who have been made and fortified through The Summit League Tournament. The people there make it a class event, there is no doubt about it.

SCOTT SUTTON
(ORAL ROBERTS HEAD COACH, 2009-12)
They do a great job of putting on a big-time event. The city of Sioux Falls embraces the tournament and it just felt like it was a big deal. That is not always the case when you play tournaments at our level.

TONY FIEGEN
(SOUTH DAKOTA STATE, 2010-13)
I will remember the incredible atmosphere that The Summit League Tournament provided both the players and fans. The arena is a fantastic facility that was filled with basketball fanatics, making the experience meaningful, enjoyable, and exciting for everyone.

JILL JOHANNSEN
(FAN)
The Summit League Tournament is a family affair!  We love the pre-game gatherings and the kids have loved getting out of school early for the women's championships games over the years.  The memories have been great and I am so happy to have shared them with my kids, parents and siblings as well as my "Jackrabbit Family"!

WAYNE "WORLD B." OTTO
(COLLEGESPORTSJOURNAL.com)
The jam-packed Sioux Falls Arena creates quite an atmosphere for post-season college basketball. The crowds are extremely loud and that makes for great television. There isn't a bad seat in the house with the fans very close to the court. No matter which school is playing, there are very knowledgeable basketball observers to watch good basketball, not just to root for their team.

JORDAN DYKSTRA
(SOUTH DAKOTA STATE, 2011-PRESENT)
The atmosphere was exciting. Fans, students, coaches and players all have a blast playing in the tournament in Sioux Falls and the memories made there are some that will remain dear for the rest of our lives.

EILISE O'CONNOR
(KANSAS CITY, 2011-13)
Playing at Sioux Falls is quite the experience. The environment for every round and every game is absolutely electric. It embodies what postseason collegiate athletics is all about.

KEVI LUPER
(ORAL ROBERTS, 2010-12)
The way that even your team's hotel was geared toward the tournament. With all of the awards and decorations at the entrance and different touches here and there, it really captured the moment and feeling of a conference tournament like it should.

Randy Schilling
(Fan)
It's a great atmosphere. Everyone is polite and respectful. Sioux Falls is a great place to cheer your team on and have a good time!

The "Old Barn"
The Summit League Championships will move into a brand-new, state-of-the-art, facility next door in 2015. Yet, a uniqueness and certain charm from its throwback feel will be left behind at the old building.

TOM DOUPLE
The arena is an iconic building and there is not a bad seat in the place. You can see the game from any vantage point from half court to the end zones, way up high, anywhere you go in the arena. It is just a unique building that has the fans right on top of the game.

SCOTT SUTTON
It is a neat building. It reminds you of some arenas from years ago.

JEFF KOLPACK
(THE FORUM OF FARGO-MOORHEAD)
The Sioux Falls Arena has the feel of a "Hoosiers" movie to me with the same arch-style roof as Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse from an architectural period of long ago. When full, it's hard to find a more basketball-thrilling type of atmosphere.

CLAY MATVICK
I remember covering Sioux Falls Skyforce games back in the mid-1990's and I always thought when it was full, Sioux Falls Arena had a big-time atmosphere.

NATE WOLTERS
The arena gets really loud. It is one of the best atmospheres I played in. It's kind of a cool-looking arena with the way the building goes up really high on the sides.

AARON JOHNSTON
The arena puts the fans right on top of the action. Sometimes it feels like the fans are in the huddle with the team.

JD GRAVINA
The seating and acoustics really make you feel like the fans are right on top of you screaming the entire game. When they stand and clap on big possessions, it's a powerful feeling.

JENNIE (SUNNARBORG) RINTALA
With fans 360 degrees around the court, it makes the Sioux Falls Arena a true championship stage.

STEVE WILKINS
(TOURNAMENT VOLUNTEER)
One of the most unique aspects was in the early years of the tournament, the old center-hung scoreboard had to be lowered between games to change out the team names.

JILL (YOUNG) SARGENT
It was electric and you could just feel the intensity, passion and emotion from the crowd. The fans packed the seats and it definitely felt like March Madness playing in front of a full arena.

 



An Atmosphere Second to None
An arena is an arena, but what gives it a true sense of character is the fans. Those fans filled Sioux Falls Arena in record numbers at every Summit League Basketball Championship.

TOM DOUPLE
The atmosphere is probably the highlight and what makes the tournament. I think that atmosphere is one of the best in college basketball for any tournament and the excitement permeates throughout the building. Fans are right on top of the action and very loud. The building is so conducive to crowd reaction, whether it is a good play or a bad play, the fans are into it. The crowd reaction you get inside that arena is the thing I will remember most.

TERRY VANDROVEC
The fan support. No question. Very few mid-majors attract those kind of attendance numbers and excitement.

GREG KAMPE
It's as good as it gets. I would want every player that I have to experience that atmosphere.

SAUL PHILLIPS
The arena itself, although one of the larger venues that you play in The Summit League, still seems intimate. People are right on top of you. There is an air of throwback to the arena in terms of amenities and everything where it feels like home when you are there. You look around on ESPN at other conference tournaments and certainly the atmosphere at our tournament year in and year out, regardless of who is playing, is better than most.

DANA DYKHOUSE
(FIRST PREMIER BANK)
Sold out crowds and electric atmosphere … the opportunity to experience big time Division I basketball in our hometown … classic March Madness excitement. Experiences that are second to none for college basketball fans.

NATE WOLTERS
It's a great atmosphere, especially because you know this is your chance to make the NCAA Tournament and that is what every team dreams about. It makes for highly emotional games and an intense couple of days.  The fans are into it and it's a lot a fun. You play basketball to be involved in games like that. The entire week is pretty special.

DAYON HALL-JONES
The crowd was always a full house and I knew that every play that happened during the game, there would be some type of reaction, whether it was cheering or booing. The atmosphere was professional. Playing in front of a super huge crowd and the game being televised, it made you feel like a professional athlete.

RICK LINDNER
You have to be there to believe it. The best environment a mid-major can have year in and year out.

SCOTT NAGY
(SOUTH DAKOTA STATE HEAD COACH, 2009-PRESENT)
The atmosphere is the best … It's something we look forward to every year.

SAULE KONTAUTAITE
(WESTERN ILLINOIS, 2012-13)
The atmosphere at Sioux Falls Arena is great. It is hard to believe that there will be better fans anywhere else than here.

NICOLE SEEKAMP
(SOUTH DAKOTA, 2013-PRESENT)
One of the best atmospheres I have ever experienced. The crowd got really into it and I enjoyed playing in front of so many people. It was so much fun to play in front of an amazing crowd!

RON HUNTER
A great atmosphere. The city always got behind it, not just for the championship game, but for the entire tournament. Sioux Falls and the arena always made it feel like a big-time environment because it was the main show in town and that was special.

SCOTT SUTTON
The fans do a great job of coming out and supporting the tournament. It is a sports city, they love their basketball and love their schools. You always knew when you went there you would play in front of a lot of people.

TONY FIEGEN
The fan base in South Dakota provides The Summit League with a unique event. Many times if you watch conference tournaments outside of the power conferences, the arenas are not filled the way the Sioux Falls Arena has been in recent years. It adds to the overall excitement of the games. The atmosphere was electric. While on the floor, you couldn't help but notice how many fans were in attendance, and it helped elevate the competition on the floor.

JENNIE (SUNNARBORG) RINTALA
Thousands of fans support you in every game you play there. They don't just show up for the championship game. We have true basketball lovers who want to see a great weekend of basketball.

JACI BIGHAM
(ORAL ROBERTS, 2010-12)
It's all about basketball and I loved that. Everyone in town and at the hotel knows about the tournament and is interested in it. It is the main attraction that week and as a player, that really makes it feel special and significant.

WAYNE "WORLD B." OTTO
The Sioux Falls Arena fan base makes The Summit League Basketball Championship one of the most exciting in NCAA Division I and gives the arena that "electric" feeling because of the crowd noise that feeds off the high-level competition on the court.

AMANDA HYDE
It is loud. No matter who is playing, you know there is going to be a good size crowd. They may not always be cheering for you, but it is nice to see that kind of support for women's basketball.

KEVIN LAMPE
Electric! A thrilling and boisterous place for student-athletes to play! Almost every game has an exceptional crowd. The Sioux Falls community shows up to support Summit League basketball.

JD GRAVINA
Magical. Walking into Sioux Falls Arena for the first time, I was awestruck by the atmosphere. The amount of people there and the energy was unbelievable.

BEN WOODSIDE
I thought the atmosphere at Sioux Falls Arena was incredible. With the tournament's proximity to Fargo, many of our fans came down to support us. I thoroughly enjoyed playing in that arena with that atmosphere.

BRAD NEWITT
The passion that the players play with, the coaches coach with, and the fans cheer with adds to the atmosphere. There is so much pressure to win on everyone at a mid-major conference tournament that it really brings out the best in everyone from an effort and focus standpoint.

TERI SCHMIDT
(SIOUX FALLS CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU)
It's like nothing else I've ever experienced at a sporting event in our arena. The excitement and enthusiasm, people of all ages smiling and having fun, media everywhere, great players competing at their best, hot dogs and popcorn in every hand, music blaring, and cheering so loud one might think the arena could explode … just what a perfect basketball championship should be!

EILISE O'CONNOR
The atmosphere is utterly bone-chilling. I have never experienced an atmosphere so feverishly and contagiously energetic.

 



Compiled by David Brauer, Summit League Assistant Commissioner for Communications