S. Dakota St. 61, Oakland, Mich. 54
SIOUX FALLS S.D. (AP)
Kristin Rotert's career at South Dakota State will continue for at least one more game.
She scored 17 points to lead the Jackrabbits to a 61-54 win over Oakland, Mich., on Tuesday for a third consecutive Summit League tournament championship.
''I really want my career to last as long as it possibly can,'' she said after the Jackrabbits (19-13) earned a third consecutive automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
Rotert, the tournament's most valuable player, made two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to clinch South Dakota State's eighth straight win and 11th in its past 12.
''This one means the most,'' Rotert said of the title. ''I think we'd all agree on that. To fight through adversity we've had this year, the struggles and people questioning whether we would be able to step up. It's been a slow process, but we've turned it around.''
The Jackrabbits took the lead late in the first half and fought off several comeback bids by Oakland (20-12).
''I knew South Dakota State would come at us in waves and they did,'' Oakland coach Beckie Francis said.
''They capitalized on their depth.''
Katie Lingle and Jennie Sunnarborg added 13 points each for SDSU, the No. 3 seed in the tournament.
Bethany Watterworth had 17 points and Sharise Calhoun 12 for Oakland (20-12), the tournament's No. 4 seed.
Oakland cut a 10-point deficit to three in the final six minutes, but couldn't get any closer.
''It was exciting to get back in it so quickly, but then we needed a stop and we fell short there,'' said Watterworth, an all-conference sophomore.
Zakiya Minifee's 3-pointer to open the game gave the Oakland Golden Grizzlies a lead they held for the first nine minutes. She finished with 10 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds.
SDSU used its inside game to stay close early and finished with 28 points in the paint.
''We're a better team when we get the ball inside,'' SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said.
''Katie and Jenni did a good job of finishing.''
Rotert's drive gave the Jackrabbits their first lead at 19-17 with 10:35 to play. Another score by Rotert, who added five rebounds, pushed the Jackrabbits to a 33-26 lead.
Oakland got within 33-29 at halftime on Minifee's drive and Elizabeth Hamlet's free throw.
Oakland, after defeating top-seed Oral Roberts in the semifinals, got as close as 42-41 on a 3-pointer by Watterworth, an all-conference sophomore.
The Jackrabbits then ran off eight straight points, followed by Jen Schuttloffel's only basket of the game - a 3-pointer - to push their advantage to 53-43 with 6:28 left.
Oakland closed within 57-54 on Anna Patritto's 3-pointer with 2:06 to go, but it was the final points of the day for Oakland, which shot 40 percent for the game and outrebounded the Jackrabbits 34-31.
Sunnarborg's rebound off a missed SDSU free throw led to a Jill Young free throw and a 59-54 lead with 33 seconds left. Watterworth missed a 3-pointer and SDSU, which shot 45 percent, got the ball with 17 seconds left.
Young led SDSU with nine rebounds. Lingle had six and Sunnarborg had five and nine assists.