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Familiar Foes: Reservation neighboring schools meet at State

South Dakota Public Broadcasting
Tim Tushla

Both Red Cloud and Lakota Tech are at the ‘A’ state girls high school basketball tournament this year in Brookings, and as fate would have it, the two schools, who are separated by about eight miles, would match up against each other.

During the quarterfinal round, Red Cloud nearly upset top seeded Wagner and Lakota Tech lost to St. Thomas More on a last second shot. This set up a consolation semifinal matchup between the two programs from Pine Ridge on Friday.

For Lakota Tech, which is located in Wolf Creek, SD, this is only their second year being a school.

“The girls worked their butts off when we opened the school last year, and ultimately this was the goal. This was the goal last year and we were a couple games short of it,” said Lakota Tech head girls basketball coach Laura Big Crow. “Coming into this summer this past year, we knew this is where we wanted to play.”

Red Cloud on the other hand is not new. They’ve been to the state tournament a handful of times over the years and despite not having a state championship banner, they did finish as the Runner-Up back in 1991.

“This has been the goal since they were little. There’s five [players] who played since they were freshmen, so they helped build the program up,” explained Red Cloud head girls basketball coach Matt Rama. “They were the first team that made it to state in 2020. I can’t speak to them, but I have to think it’s very rewarding.”

With Red Cloud and Lakota Tech being so close to each other, there are naturally a lot of family connections between the two squads.

“We’re playing against cousins. This is our third time playing them, it’s a good game every single time,” Big Crow said.

These two teams split wins against each other during the regular season, which made Friday’s matchup between the two the rubber match. Red Cloud was victorious defeating Lakota Tech 64-44. But as Big Crow pointed out, this was a special game for the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“It’s fun to know we have so much talent within our community and we’re eight miles apart, so we have that much talent,” she stated. “It’s huge – it’s huge for our people.”

While Coach Rama agrees with Big Crow on it being a special game, he also pointed out that it’s unfortunate that one of the teams had to lose – because the players are so close with one another.

“You know those kids since they’re little kids,” Rama explained. “It’s fun to keep and be in a battle, but it’s not really ideal. We play each other twice this year, we’ve played each other growing up, only to come to the state tournament and play each other again. It is what it is.”

Win or lose, it really comes down to the love these teams share for the sport of basketball. It’s no secret that South Dakota is a basketball state, but on the reservations it’s especially true.

“It’s part of us. It’s who we are, it really is. There’s not a lot of opportunities on the reservation and when you put a basketball in a kid’s hands, it opens a lot of doors for them,” Big Crow exclaimed. “It is part of who we are.”

Red Cloud will play for the ‘A’ girls consolation championship on Saturday at 1:45 pm CT against Dakota Valley/Sioux Falls Christian. Lakota Tech will play in the 7th/8th place game at noon CT.