SIOUX FALLS -- The drive for five is complete.
South Dakota State made just enough plays down the stretch, overcoming a cold-shooting afternoon with solid defense en route to its fifth consecutive Summit League women's basketball tournament title with a 56-53 victory over in-state rival South Dakota Tuesday afternoon before a record crowd of 6,153 at the Sioux Falls Arena.
The Jackrabbits, who upped their record to 15-0 all-time in the Summit League Basketball Championship, improved to 25-7 overall. USD fell to 17-15.
After trailing most of the day, the Jackrabbits regained the lead at 47-46 on a Katie Lingle basket with 6 minutes, 32 seconds to play. The game was tied at 50-all before Ashley Eide gave SDSU the lead for good with two free throws with 4:37 to play. A Lingle basket 50 seconds later off an Eide assist pushed the margin to 54-50.
USD trimmed the deficit to 54-53 with 1:11 to play before both teams came up empty on their next possessions. Eide was fouled on the ensuing possession and the senior calmly sank both free throws for what would be the final margin.
After a Coyote timeout, SDSU opted to foul USD's Alexis Yackley on the inbounds with 5.8 seconds remaining. Yackley missed the front end of the one-and-one, but got the rebound and attempted a tying three-pointer that rimmed off. The Coyotes again grabbed the rebound, but could only attempt a two-point shot as time expired, sending SDSU to the NCAA Tournament for a fifth consecutive year.
SDSU led 10-6 after a Hannah Strop three-pointer at the 16:39 mark of the first half, but the Jackrabbits went cold from the field after that point. Behind the play of tournament most valuable player Nicole Seekamp, the Coyotes took the lead at 15-12 on a Seekamp three-pointer and later went on an 11-2 run to go up 28-19 with 4:19 to play.
Gabby Boever ignited a Jackrabbit spurt to close the first half, banking in a three-pointer before adding a steal and layup. SDSU pulled to within 32-28 at halftime.
The Jackrabbits tied the contest at 35-all on a Megan Waytashek layup less than three minutes into the second half, but couldn't gain the lead for another 11 minutes.
Waytashek led SDSU with 11 points and added seven rebounds. Eide finished with 10 points, while Boever collected nine points and a career-high seven steals. Seniors Katie Lingle and Leah Dietel each scored eight points, with Lingle pulling down a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Jackrabbits ended the day 16-of-55 from the field, 29.1 percent, including a 5-for-20 effort from three-point range. SDSU cashed in at the free throw line, however, converting 19-of-23 attempts for 82.6 percent.
Seekamp scored 17 of her game-high 20 points in the first half, with Tempestt Wilson adding 10 points. Lisa Loeffler led the Coyotes with nine rebounds.
The Coyotes finished 21-of-57 from the field, 36.8 percent, including 2-for-11 shooting from long range. USD was 9-of-13 on free throws for 69.2 percent.
NCAA Tournament pairings will be announced next Monday (March 18). Action begins March 23 or 24 at campus sites.
NOTES: SDSU leads the all-time series, 51-22 ... the Jackrabbits have won 32 of the last 35 meetings and three in a row ... SDSU has trailed at the half in three of its five Summit League title games, overcoming a 10-point (39-29) deficit to Oakland in 2009 and a nine-point deficit (36-27) to Kansas City in 2012 ... in three tournament games, the Jackrabbits shot 86 percent (49-of-57) from the free throw line ... Boever tallied 12 steals in the three tournament games ... Eide and Boever represented SDSU on the all-tournament team ... other all-tournament selections included Wilson from USD and IUPUI's Kerah Nelson ... the Jackrabbits improved to 8-5 this season when trailing at the half ... SDSU held an 11-10 advantage in bench points and 11-4 edge in second-chance scoring ... USD turned the ball over 16 times, compared to 10 by the Jackrabbits