South Dakota Captures First League Championship Title

Photo by Inertia Sports Media
Photo by Inertia Sports Media

Women's Basketball Championship Page

The Basics
Champion: South Dakota
No. 4 South Dakota 82, No. 6 Denver 71
Records: South Dakota (19-13), Denver (9-23)
Location: Sioux Falls Arena - Sioux Falls, S.D.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The University of South Dakota earned its first berth in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament with an 82-71 victory over Denver in the title game of The Summit League Championship Tuesday.

The Coyotes, who entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed, will take a 19-13 record to the big dance after earning the league's automatic qualifier berth.

Sixth-seeded Denver led the first 15 minutes, building a 17-10 margin. USD got its first lead at 4:47 of the first half on a layup by freshman Bridget Arens.

After USD led 33-32 at intermission, the teams traded leads until junior Raeshel Contreras took charge, hitting a three-pointer to put the Coyotes ahead 57-55 and scoring ten of her teams 13 points over a four minute span which saw USD open a 71-62 lead          

USD put six players in double figures. In addition to Contrares, Polly Harrington hit 6-of-8 field goal attempts and led USD with 16 points, Arens had 13, Margaret McCloud and Nicole Seekamp 11 each with Tia Hemiller adding 10. Seekamp led the Coyotes on the boards with eight rebounds and also contributed seven assists.

Denver had five players in double figures led by Desiree Hunter and Paige Bradley with 14 each. Hunter completed a double-double with 10 rebounds.  Theresa Wirth added 13 points while Kailey Edwards and Alison Janecek had 10 each.

Denver, which defeated the number two and three seeds en route to the finals, finished its season 9-23.

Turning Point

After a back-and-forth contest in the first half with neither team leading by more than seven points, South Dakota's Raeshel Contreras hit a three-pointer at the 8:49 mark to put the Coyotes ahead for good.

Inside The Box Score

  • South Dakota's Tia Hemiller's eight assists are tied for third all-time in a championship game.
  • A total of 11 players (six from USD; five from DU) recorded double figures.
  • USD's Nicole Seekamp finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
  • Denver's Desiree Hunter recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
  • South Dakota and Denver both finished the game with 36 points in the paint.

News & Notes

  • This marked the second time in league history the No. 4 and No. 6 seeds have met in the championship game with the other being in 2003.
  • South Dakota captured its first-ever Summit League Championship and berth into the NCAA Tournament.
  • The Coyotes become just the third team to win The Summit League Championship in the last eight years.
  • Championship game attendance was 4,125. Total women's tournament attendance was 16,472.
  • South Dakota's Polly Harrington was 18-for-24 (.750) from the field in The Summit League Tournament.
  • South Dakota's Tia Hemiller's eight assists are tied for third all-time in a championship game.
  • The Coyotes are now 5-1 all-time in The Summit League Tournament.

Paige Bradley, Denver
DeAirra Goss, IUPUI
Polly Harrington, South Dakota (MVP)
Ashley Luke, Western Illinois
Nicole Seekamp, South Dakota

Up Next
South Dakota will await its selection and placement into the NCAA Tournament field.  The pairings will be announced Monday on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET.


South Dakota head coach Amy Williams

"How exciting. Special day for our program. I feel so proud of this team and the grit they've showed all season long. I'm proud for all the Yotes that paved the way for this team. We're proud to bring this championship home for the Yotes and I couldn't be more proud than I am today."

 on the team
"This team is made of individuals that are competitive. Tia and Polly are just competitive. Sometimes that - the competition - just outweighs any emotion and just focuses on the competition of and I'm glad we have that kind of gritty player."

on taking over the program two years ago
"When I took this job, we wanted to raise the bar. The coaches before me had put together some good pieces. For us in that first opportunity, we talked as a group about not taking advantage of that. Just wanting to raise the bar however we could, continue to raise those expectations."

"It's awesome to be able to celebrate that with Coyote nation. It doesn't matter if it's our cleanup crew at The Dome, they all have a part of what happened here today."

"The thing that was fortunate for us, when we had those injuries one year ago, I knew some players that played very significant minutes. We talked as program- when adversity hits, the weak teams hit and you have to fight that. Our team embraced that- they came together through adversity. A credit to the charter of this team and the reason why were we able to cut down some nets."

on Polly Harrington
"Polly is spectacular. I don't think I've ever coached a player shooting 75% in three games."

on the game
"Championship games are not easy, ever. We knew it was going to be that way. As soon as we got a five-point lead, they came back. Fortunately for us, we made a run at the right time and the clock ran out on them."

"It starts with those two. They both have grit and competition. Raeshel [Contreras] wants the ball in her hands. When she makes up in her mind that she's going to do something, she does. Tia off the court is the sweetest, but when she gets on the court, she's feisty"

on what winning the championship does for the program
"We are certainly not going to hide it from recruits. We are going to be locked in on focusing. We want to be able to make this a repeat performance and bring in lots of women that will help us do that again."

on last year's years experience
"I credit that WBI one year ago for helping us win today. Any post season experience that your team can get is so valuable. Seekamp goes for 28 points in the second half against Utah State. The experiences we got one year ago were valuable in helping us win this conference tournament. We are excited to have the opportunity to go dancing."

South Dakota guard Nicole Seekamp

on the game
"We played our best defensive game all year. We knew that DU was going to play hard and it was going to be a tough game. We made big stops today."

on the league tournament
"All year we have talked about playing our best basketball at this time. We stick together as a team. We came back and we won that game [WIU]. We played really well together."

"I guess I have to give credit to coach for that. She motivates us to get out there and work our [tails] off. She's the only senior and we don't want the season to be over yet. That's in the back of our heads."

"Defense is a big key for us. Our whole team played great defensively. We managed to get stops and get scores."

on the defensive effort  
"To shut down 22 [Paige Bradley] and 35 [Desiree Hunter] for their team. We did that this game and just focused on defense."

on the NCAA Tournament
"It's exciting. Once we find out who we play, we can focus on that. When we get back on the road and hopefully we can get more wins,"

South Dakota forward Polly Harrington

on playing the in the championship game for the second-straight season after losing last year
"I think when we were battling, I thought 'I don't want this feeling again'. Collectively as a group, we didn't want that taste again."

on being named Tournament MVP
"That was a shock. I went out there every night and tried my best for my team. I'm blessed to be nominated and received the award. Focusing, finishing and working as hard as I can on the board."

on playing a back and forth game
"You do get tired, but at this level, you got to be tough and push through. A lot of us did that today. Making big plays when we needed to make plays, stretching that lead. Our team handled that fatigue and pushed through."

Denver head coach Kerry Cremeans

"First of all, a big congrats to South Dakota. It's no surprise for them to be in that championship game. South Dakota has been a force late in the conference season. They will represent our conference very well. We look forward to following them in that. How proud I am of them and their fight, their guts and their heart to make it to this championship game. We fought all the way to the end. South Dakota was able to convert on some transition baskets. I am very proud as we go in to this second year. The vision was for them to feel and taste that this feels like. These kids feel it, they know what it's going to take as we move forward with this program."

on South Dakota's play
"More than anything, it was what they were doing on the offensive end. They were able to get those easy points. They got their fans behind them. It really changed the momentum of the game. They didn't look back after they were able to get easy points on transition."

on what she said to her team after the postgame handshake
"How proud of them I was. I loved seeing their emotion. I wanted them to soak it all in, to let them know that they were going to walk away with a trophy back to Denver. They fought hard to make that happen. They stole the hearts of a lot of people. I want them to know how special that was and not to forget it."

on having two female head coaches in the championship game
"Amy is an incredible coach. She and I were similar in that we coach with a lot of passion and fun- both teams feed off that an enjoy it. Hats off to Amy. I told the staff before we entered the tournament that South Dakota was the team to beat"

on Paige Bradley
"She [Bradley] has worked so hard in the off season to prepare herself. She played behind Emmy Smith who was a phenomenal point guard for Denver. Great knowledge from watching Emmy play- soaked it all in her freshman year. She was surrounded by great teammates to help her continue to grow."

Denver forward Alison Janecek

on playing in front of a loud crowd
"Comparable to playing SDSU at home. A ton of home fans, the crowd is crazy. The crowd was intense. We came to play in that environment."

on South Dakota's transition game
"The transition, they pushed the ball really hard. We weren't getting back quick enough. They were able to connect and find the open man."

on getting to the championship game as a six seed
"We did the unthinkable. Everyone underestimated us, we feel really good about what we accomplished."

Denver guard Paige Bradley

on the feeling of getting to the league championship
"From the start of the season, the goal was to make it to the conference championship. We came in with the mindset that it's a new mindset. I'm glad we got to experience it."

on being named to the All-Tournament team
"It's a great honor to get that All-Tournament team. I couldn't do it with my team. The support of them, that is why I was able to do it."

on next year's team
"Take this feeling and move on to the next season when it comes around. Know what it feels like being in that atmosphere knowing we can get it next time."