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BALL FIVE: Homegrown talent leading way as Jacks hit Sweet 16

The Lady Jackrabbits of South Dakota State University are playing in the Sweet 16.
That line has been coming. It was going to happen sooner or later. I like that it’s sooner.
I was pleasantly surprised, but not shock and awe surprised when the Lady Jacks beat Syracuse 75-64 in the round of 32 on Monday, except for the fact that six seeds are not supposed to beat three seeds on their home court. I knew going in it was going to be one of those games. I would not have been surprised if Syracuse had won either.
But here’s the thing. This is usually the kind of game where the upstart team from the Midwest plays like a house on fire for the first 28 or 29 minutes and then holds on for dear life while the more talented team with the higher class of recruits comes storming back with a last-ditch effort to pull out the win.
Instead it went the way most basketball games pitting two really good teams go. It was back and forth and forth and back for 29 minutes. With four minutes left, SDSU was down 62-61 when sharpshooter Madison Guebert hit two three-pointers in a row. Syracuse could not answer and the Lady Jacks dominated the last three minutes of the game to pull away.
While Guebert is from Apple Valley, Minn., SDSU has six homegrown South Dakotans, three start and two more made important contributions.
SDSU, and namely 19th-year coach Aaron Johnston, get the cream of the South Dakota crop to stay in-state and play in Brookings, which is the main reason I’m such a big fan of the program.
Let’s start with Macy Miller. She is the bomb, is she not? The Mitchell native is the SDSU and Summit League all-time leading scorer. On Monday, when she could not provide her usual scoring output, the senior scored 11 points and five of those were free throws, Miller did other things and had 10 rebounds and five assists, including setting up Guebert’s second three. By the way, Miller, Guebert and Sydney Palmer, from Pierre who was one-for-one with a three on Monday, are the only seniors on the 14-player roster.
Tagyn Larson from Sioux Falls scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds. Larson when to Iowa before transferring back to Brookings. She is 6’2” and can play inside and athletic.
Then there are Paiton Burkhard, the 6’0” freshman from Aberdeen and Myah Selland, the 6’2” sophomore from Sanborn Central/Woonsocket via Letcher.
These two youngster were the big difference in the game. When Syracuse proved it had the athletes to make life difficult on the outside for Miller and Guebert, they changed the game with their inside offense. Selland was my most valuable player of the game. She scored 17 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished five assists and added two steals and two blocked shots. At least three of her assists were baskets by Burkhard who finished five of six from the field for 10 points.
Now, can the high-scoring Lady Jackrabbits find the winning combination against an Oregon team that is even higher scoring (the Lady Jackrabbits are 12th in the country in scoring, Oregon is third)?
That wwll find out on Friday night at 10 p.m. on ESPN 2.