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Viborg-Hurley stuns Aberdeen Roncalli in quarterfinals upset

Craig Wollman
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

The eighth-seeded Viborg-Hurley Cougars brought in a group of eighth-grade boys from their school district to help them prepare for the taller Aberdeen Roncalli Cavaliers, the top-seed in the Class B Girl’s Basketball Tournament, and it paid off.

The Cougars pulled off the eight seed over one seed to start the State Tournament in Watertown Thursday afternoon. After trailing 28-27 at halftime, the Cougars went on an 8-0 run to build a lead late in the third quarter, a lead they would never give up.

“It’s so awesome, we had so many great messages from other schools wishing us good luck,” Viborg-Hurley head coach Molly Mason said. “Just to come out and perform and be able to play to our ability, hopefully, makes everybody proud. I know I’m super proud.”

After watching a film on Aberdeen Roncalli and knowing what they were going to need to do to try and slow down the Cavaliers, Mason brought in a group of taller eighth grade Viborg-Hurley boys, and used them to simulate what Roncalli does and looks like.

“That really helped our girls out,” Mason said. “We were able to rally break down the defense and after watching film and seeing what they were doing, we’re able to mold a defense around what we needed to do.”

The message to the team was to not be contemptuous with a state tournament appearance. After defeating Castlewood, a state tournament team last year, in the SoDak 16 last week, the Cougars weren’t coming to state for the experience alone, they were coming to win.

“That was the speech every single practice for the last week, we have to believe,” Mason said. “Why are we up here if we can’t compete with the best team in the state. That was a big thing, play confident and believe that we can do this.”

Having played in the state tournament a season ago, the Cougars felt more comfortable in the state tournament environment and Mason said that helped her team settle into the game early on.

“We’ve worked hard to win this year,” Mason said. “That was the first thing we said after the region win, we are going to play, we are going to win it.”

When the final buzzer went off, the Cougars were celebrating, but that celebration didn’t last long as Viborg-Hurley didn’t come to state for just one win.

“We did a brief little 30 seconds of screaming and hollering, and then it was, okay, now we need to go back and watch this game (Corsica-Stickney vs. White River),” Mason said. “Now we’re making sure we rest bodies, get hydrated… The key is just coming out and being able to play with the intensity that we played with starting the game today.”