USD women among Elite Eight

USD women among Elite Eight
A full understanding of why Chad Lavin, head coach of The University of South Dakota women's basketball team, decided to come back and coach one more season, was revealed at a post-game press conference Monday.

It wasn't that his team had just made history, defeating Minnesota State 61-49 in the DakotaDome to earn the North Central regional title at the DakotaDome.

It wasn't the Coyotes incredible winning streak this season. Monday's win marked the team's 29th consecutive win.

It's a factor that's much more important than statistics or victories.

It's the team, itself, that brought Lavin back to coach one more year.

As he spoke of his closeness with this unique group of athletes, he warned that if his thoughts focused on them too long, he might lose his composure.

Then that almost happened.

"This team is a special group of kids," he said. " I get a little emotional just thinking about what they mean to me, and the effort they've given."

Shannon Daly scored a career-high 21 points to help the third-ranked USD women secure the North Central Region Championship.

The Coyotes now advance to the Elite Eight National Championship in Kearney NE, on March 26, 27 and 29. It will be the USD women team's first appearance at the Elite Eight Championships.

The Coyotes, ranked third in NCAA Division II, will face 24th-ranked Washburn of the South Central Region in the first game of the tournament.

Daly was named the tourmament Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the all-region team by teammate Jeana Hoffman.

"This was the fourth time we've played them (Minnesota State-Mankato)," Daly said at Monday's press conference. "The first time we played them, I got to the rim alot, but the second and third times, I kind of laid back a little bit. You've just got to look for the gaps … and they started getting smarter as the game went on, so thankfully we had people step up on our team and continue to make shots."

Daly, who scored 15 points in the first half, made 9-of-13 field goals, including six layups. She scored 37 points in the regional tournament and saved the best performance of her career for the most important night in the program's history. Daly's offensive explosion kept a cold-shooting USD team within one point (28-27) of Minnesota State at the halftime break. She was joined in double figures by senior guard Jenna Hoffman with 14 points and nine rebounds. Jeana Hoffman had 10 points, five rebounds and two assists.

The Coyotes shot 40 percent from the field (22-of-55) while Minnesota State hit 39.1 percent (18-of-46). The Mavericks made just 1-of-11 shots from three-point range while USD converted 6-of-19 (31.6 percent).

The momentum shifted back and forth in the first half, which featured six tie scores. In the second half, the Coyotes took a 38-30 lead on a jumper by Jeana Hoffman. The Mavericks responded with four straight points to cut the lead to 38-34. That was as close as MSU would get to the Coyotes.

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