Mar 1st, 2011 @ 11:22 pm | Author: Ryan Cunningham,
After grabbing a rebound, Viking guard Kirsten Bearstail (Jr., Bismarck, ND) ran up the floor, and in doing so, outran her offense, with two Jimmie defenders in front of the rush.

She decided for a transition three.

"They were not going to beat us at home. I thought we should just get this over with," Bearstail said.

The roar from the crowd after the shot went through deafened the W. E. Osmon Fieldhouse.

Bearstail's three was the second of back-to-back threes that turned a two-point Viking deficit into a four-point edge with 2:25 left of the game. The Vikings claimed the Dakota Athletic Conference (DAC) tournament title with a 74-69 win over Jamestown College.

The win sends the Vikings to 23-8 overall, the most successful record in Viking history, and also earns the Vikings their first NAIA Division II national tournament berth in school history.

The Vikings were turned away from nationals by then-NAIA Northern State (Aberdeen, SD) in 1990 and 1991, with the Wolves claiming the national title the second time around.

The win was the second-straight five-point win of the tournament for the Vikings, with their combined margin of victory 13 points for the three games.

It was also the second time in the tournament Bearstail played the hero.

The junior college transfer hit a three with 20 seconds left to give the Vikings a 65-64 lead over Mayville State in the opening round last Wednesday, a game the Vikings had a 17-point lead in at halftime, then lost control of late.

The Vikings did not lose control of the game Tuesday night. They never had it, and the Jimmies did.

Jamestown College used a 21-9 run to erase a six-point deficit for a 50-44 lead with 9:50 left to play. The regular cast of scorers were making the difference for the Jimmies.

Bridget Schunemann (So., Lino Lakes, MN) again ran into early foul trouble in Valley City, and again responded in a second half. After sitting almost all of the first half, she dominated the inside for five second-half makes and a pair of free throws, scoring 12 of her 15 after the break.

Carly Jenson (Fr., White Bear Lake, MN) hit two crucial threes during the run, Amber Ramlo (So., Jamestown, ND) also canned a pair from beyond, but the shot with the most attitude came from DAC Freshman of the Year Hannah Steele (Circle Pines, MN)

Steele missed a three badly early in the game, and the crowd would not let her forget, but she silenced the Viking student body with a step-back three off the dribble from the top of the key right in front of the fans.

Then, it was Valley City State's turn.

Caitlyn Wojahn (Sr., Milbank, SD) hit a three to end the big Jimmie run, cutting the lead in half. Amanda Brown (Sr., Limon, CO), who was also sidelined for most of the first half with foul trouble, drained a shot from range for her 11th point of the second half, lurching the Vikings closer.

Bearstail's threes gave the Vikings a lead they would never relinquish. Mandi Bindas (Jr., Oxbow, ND) and Brittany Lehner (Fr., Watertown, ND) each sank key free throws to keep the lead two possessions in the final minutes.

Head coach Jill DeVries gave all of the credit to her players.

"They did it," said DeVries, who was named DAC Coach of the Year. "They played so hard and competed so well. It was all the kids."

Bearstail said desire was the difference. "It was 95% about how much we wanted it down the stretch."

Eight players scored in double figures. Schunemann led the Jimmies with 15 points, while Ramlo and Kayla Roemmich (So., Linton, ND) each added 12. Jenson tossed in 11.

Wojahn again led the Vikings, scoring 18 points for the second straight game. Bearstail added 17, while Brown knocked in 13 and Lehner added 10.

The Vikings will find out tomorrow night who they will face in the national tournament, and when they will play their first game. Jamestown College is still alive for an at-large bid with a 21-9 overall record.

The DAC sent three teams to the national tournament a year ago. This year, Valley City State has earned the automatic bid, Black Hills State will likely get the first at-large bid, and the final spot, if their is to be one, will be between the Jimmies and Minot State.

The tournament begins at the Tyson Events Center next Wednesday.

Brown was named to the DAC's All-Conference first team, and Wojahn was a third team selection. The awards become official at the conclusion of the tournament.