SIOUX FALLS — Brittany Lange began her post-game comments by saying that she was excited her team could show up as the underdog and come out on top.
And the more the Omaha women’s basketball coach used “underdog,” one thing was clear: Her squad is embracing that role.
The fifth-seeded Mavericks again reached the Summit League tournament semifinals by virtue of a 64-58 victory over South Dakota in Sunday afternoon’s quarterfinals at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls.
A No. 5 beating a No. 4 in any tournament doesn’t exactly qualify as a major upset, but considering USD had reached the finals in four straight years and were playing in front of more fans, Omaha (16-14) was clearly the underdog.
“Nobody’s going to give us that credit until we earn that respect,” said Lange, whose squad will play Western Illinois in today’s (Monday) noon semifinal.
“We need to keep showing that consistency that we are the real deal; that we are here.”
The game was essentially up for grabs until the final 75 seconds, but that’s when Omaha junior Remy Davenport made a big play on each end of the floor to give the Mavs the edge.
Her three-pointer with 1:13 left pushed Omaha in front 59-56, and she then blocked a USD three on the other. The Mavs then made five free throws in the final 24 seconds and the Coyotes couldn’t connect on a handful of shots — they finished the game 4-of-28 on three-pointers.
And that’s really what it came down to, said USD senior center Abigail Fogg.
“I think our biggest issue was we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, and didn’t shut down the players we needed to,” said Fogg, who had 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four blocks.
Another issue the Coyotes were dealing with?
Omaha’s second team all-league forward Mikaela Shaw made 9-of-16 shots for 25 points — nine of those came in the fourth quarter.
“Their best player was their best player today,” USD coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t a surprise, but we didn’t do a good job guarding her.”
Outside of Fogg, USD got 13 points, four rebounds and three assists from freshman Ciara Duffy, and eight points and five rebounds from Bridget Arens. Sophomore Allison Arens contributed seven points and eight rebounds, and freshman reserve Madison McKeever scored seven points.
The story of USD’s season — if it ended Sunday — was the progression of those younger players.
“It was just so great to see each player as an individual grow,” Fogg said. “All of us grew together.
“It’s been a beautiful thing to be part of,” she added.
But it’s Omaha that moves on in the conference tournament.
Lange credited the league for its rise up the ranks this season — the conference is ranked No. 11 and six league teams are in the top-150 RPI.
“We have to get better with that, and I think the underdog mentality is who we are and we’re going to wear it proudly,” Lange said.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, are left to await word on thier playoff fate.
Is Plitzuweit confident that USD could receive a post-season invitation?
“Obviously now it’s in the hands of somebody else,” she said.
Whether it’s the WNIT or the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI), the Coyotes will embrace whatever’s next, according to Bridget Arens.
“Every girl on the team is not ready to be done by any means,” Arens said.
“All year long, we’ve had a great group of younger kids that are hungry, and if any of us get an opportunity, I think we’re going to hold on to it for as long as we can.”
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Mikaela Shaw 9-16 7-9 25; Michaela Dapprich 3-11 0-0 8; Courtney Vaccher 2-5 0-0 4; Marissa Preston 1-3 2-6 5; Remy Davenport 4-11 3-4 15; Amber Vidal 0-3 0-0 0; Abi Lujan 1-1 2-2 5; Ellie Brecht 0-1 0-0 0; Jay Bridgeman 1-2 0-0 2. TOTALS 21-53 14-21 64.
SOUTH DAKOTA (22-8)
Bridget Arens 4-5 0-0 8; Abigail Fogg 8-11 0-0 16; Allison Arens 2-14 2-2 7; Jaycee Bradley 1-8 2-2 5; Ciara Duffy 6-12 0-0 13; Taylor Frederick 0-0 0-0 0; Megan Bonar 0-0 0-0 0; Madison McKeever 2-8 2-2 7; Kate Liveringhouse 1-3 0-0 2. TOTALS 24-61 6-6 58.
OMAHA 17 25 44 64
SOUTH DAKOTA 12 30 42 58
Three-Pointers: Omaha 8-23 (Davenport 4-10, Dapprich 2-6, Lujan 1-1, Preston 1-3, Brecht 0-1, Vidal 0-2), USD 4-28 (A. Arens 1-6, Duffy 1-6, McKeever 1-6, Bradley 1-7, Liveringhouse 0-1, Fogg 0-2). Total Rebounds: USD 37 (Fogg 10), Omaha 36 (Dapprich 8, Lujan 8). Assists: USD 14 (Fogg 5), Omaha 8 (Shaw 4). Turnovers: USD 9, Omaha 9. Personal Fouls: USD 19, Omaha 9. Fouled Out: Fogg.