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Native Sun News: Pine Ridge team headed to basketball finals

Filed Under: National | Sports
More on: basketball, native sun news, oglala sioux, south dakota

The following story was written and reported by David Michaud, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Lady Thorpes prepare for big dance
By David Michaud
Native Sun News Correspondent

PINE RIDGE - For the third time in as many years the Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes basketball team is heading to the state tournament.

Their first game will come against the Sioux Valley Cossacks, who went 17-3 on the year. The Lady Thorpes are the fourth seeded team, and if they win they will presumably face St. Thomas More, the first seeded team in the tournament.

Following an impressive regular season where they finished 18-2, only losing to AA Sturgis and Spearfish, the Lady Thorpes grabbed the first seed in Region 7A. On the season the Lady Thorpes averaged 74.2 points per game, while scoring at least 100 twice and at least 80 in more than half their contests.

While the Lady Thorpes were an offensive scoring machine this year that is not their only strength. On defense they also had a strong showing, not allowing any team to score over 60 points on the year.

The Lady Thorpes also proved capable in close games, going 4-0 in the regular season in games decided by 10 points or less.

That is something Head Coach Laura Big Crow prides her team on, being strong in close games.

“I loved how resilient my girls are,” said Big Crow. “They never panic. They can get behind and miss a few shots but they stay calm.”

Big Crow, who graduated from Pine Ridge in 2004, has been the Head Coach for the Lady Thorpes for the past three years, and each year she has led the team to a higher finish. Her first year, 2012, the team placed sixth, while they took second last year. Another step up the podium is planned for this year.

“We've done better every year and this year we plan on moving up again. We are going to Spearfish to win,” said Big Crow.

They should be ready. The toughest teams that the Lady Thorpes faced this year, the Todd County Falcons and the Winner Warriors, carried a combined record of 36-4. Three of the four losses that the squads had came at the hands of the Lady Thorpes.

Winners went on to win their Region, Region 6A, and are a possible opponent at the state tournament.

Leading the Lady Thorpes into State will be senior Santana White Dress. White Dress has been a starter for the Thorpes the past three years they qualified for the state tournament. This year she also scored her 1,000 point as a Lady Thorpe.

Under the basket for the Thorpes is a junior who has experienced the State tournament every year she has been varsity, center Nettie Bettelyoun. She knows what this game really means. “Were young, I have this mindset where whatever happens, happens. If we win or lose I'm going to be happy that I got to play in state,” said Bettelyoun, not to mean that she doesn't care about the games though. She also had to step up this year after letting last year’s seniors lead the team.

“This year I have to be a leader a lot more, I'm learning how to be a leader. I got a lot more confidence in myself than I had last year,” said Bettelyoun. That confidence should pay off, as she was a starter on the runner-up team last year and knows what it takes to get to the finals. Also helping lead the way is Pine Ridge’s starting sophomore, Shaylene Richard. As a freshman last year Richard came on during the second half of the season and at the state tournament was named to the All-Tournament team. That experience from last year should prove beneficial for her.

“I'm a starter this year, last year I came off the bench, so this year I know I'll get a lot of playing time and be ready for it,” said Richard, who does not lack confidence in her team. “We are going to be in the state championship.”

Coach Big Crow knows that the state tournament is a different type of environment. Not only the games are bigger, but the stage is too. That is why she will continue to do what she has done all year with her team.

“We need to keep running. Black Hills State University has a bigger court than we are used to playing on,” said Big Crow. “We need to work a lot of defense. Defense, defense, defense. We are too aggressive and the new hand check rule is killing us, but we got to stay out of foul trouble at state.”

The good thing about state this year is that it is much closer than last year’s tournament. It is being held only two hours away in Spearfish. That gives the Lady Thorpes a much better chance at seeing some friendly faces in the crowd.

“It's nice to play close to home where more fans have an opportunity to come support us,” said Big Crow. “But no matter what we have to just keep calm and play our game and we will come out ahead.”

(Contact David Michaud at

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