Editor's Note: Throughout the 2012-13 athletics season, Jackrabbit Athletics will spotlight 40 of the top moments in the 40-year history of Frost Arena. This week's segment focuses on the 1997 North Central Regional men's basketball final between South Dakota State and Fort Hays State (Kan.)
BASKETBALL: SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 86, FORT HAYS STATE (Kan.) 74
For the second year in a row, the South Dakota State and Fort Hays State men's basketball teams met in the championship game of the NCAA Division II North Central Regional. In the 1997 final, played March 9 at Frost Arena, the Jackrabbits avenged a loss at Fort Hays the previous season by knocking off the defending national champions, 86-74.
Early on it appeared as though it would be a Tiger repeat as Fort Hays built a 21-14 lead midway through the first half as Sherick Simpson hit back-to-back three-pointers and added a two-point basket as part of a 10-0 Tiger run.
SDSU's Matt Wallace hit three straight baskets to pull the Jackrabbits back to within a point. FHSU led 31-30 until the Jackrabbits closed the half on a 7-0 run to take a 37-31 lead into the locker room.
The Jackrabbits carried the momentum into the second half, scoring the first five points to build a double-digit lead. SDSU gave the Frost Arena crowd of 7,665 more to cheer about with a decisive 13-3 run midway through the half, giving the Jackrabbits their largest lead of the night at 21 points, 69-48.
The Jackrabbits' final 11 points of the game came at the free throw line, where SDSU made 27-of-36 attempts for 75 percent. North Central Conference Player of the Year Jason Sempsrott was a perfect 16-for-16 at the line en route to game highs of 23 points and 10 assists. Greg Himler added 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, while Wallace finished with 18 -- 13 of which came in the first half -- to go along with a team-high 10 rebounds. Kurt Meister rounded out the Jackrabbit double-figure scorers with 15 points.
SDSU ended the night 28-of-54 from the field, 51.8 percent, including a 3-for-9 effort from three-point range. The Jackrabbits recorded 24 assists against only five turnovers in the contest.
Simpson and Alonzo Goldston each scored 16 points to lead the Tigers. Earl Yson and Anthony Pope added 12 points apiece for FHSU, which shot 25-of-71 from the field, 35.2 percent, including 11-for-38 from behind the arc. At the line, the Tigers converted 13-of-18 attempts, 72.2 percent.
Pope led all players with 12 boards as rebounding was even at 38.
FHSU ended its season with a 29-2 record, while the Jackrabbits improved to 25-4 in advancing to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the first time since 1992. SDSU eventually fell to Lynn (Fla.) in the Elite Eight quarterfinals in Louisville, Ky.