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Milbank Girls Basketball Marks 30-Year Anniversary of State Title (2018-02-05)
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The Milbank High School girls basketball players from the 1987 state championship and 1988 and 1989 runner-up teams will be honored Saturday, January 20, during the half-time of the girls basketball game between Milbank and West Central at the armory.
Brian Pauli, current girls head coach, spearheaded the recognition event with assistance from the M-Club. "I thought it would be neat to recognize the state champion team on their 30-year anniversary," said Pauli. "I was 12 years old when they won the state championship and I remember going to their games as a youngster. It's definitely not easy to win a state title and they should be recognized for it."
Annelies Seffrood, a member of the 1987 Bulldog team, has assisted in organizing the event which will honor all the players involved in the successful program throughout its more than 40-year history. "When you think about it, the team was still so new in 1987, and the athletes Milbank had at the time were outstanding," she said. "I wanted to make sure that everyone was included in the recognition."
According to Seffrood, the event is to honor the past, celebrate the present and inspire the future. "So many youth today are daughters of mothers who played during the 1980s," she noted. It's fun to dig back into our old memory boxes and share stories with our sons and daughters to motivate them."
Milbank's first girls basketball team was fielded in 1975 - the first year the South Dakota High School Activities Association sponsored a full-scale statewide competition in girls basketball. Prior to that, Milbank female athletes played intramural games with a few contests against outside competition. The Bulldogs posted a 5-10 record in their first season with Sharon McCarriar as coach.
Just 12 years later, the Lady Bulldogs brought home the state championship trophy after putting together three good games at the Corn Palace in Mitchell in 1987. They posted wins over Lemmon, 68-55, and Ipswich, 57-55, and won the state championship with a 56-44 win over Lennox in the title game.
"The girls believed in themselves and were not going to be denied," said Gordon Bergquist, head coach, in a post-tournament article in the Review. "Following the loss to Groton during the regular season, they rededicated themselves to go all the way and there was no way anyone was going to stop them. It was strictly a complete team effort."
The group didn't just play basketball together. "We were all so close and were friends during the season and outside of basketball," said Seffrood.
According to Seffrood the team also had depth. "Our second five would have been starters on any other team. So we practiced with our competition and that's how we were able to adapt to the different opponents," she said.
Bulldogs Nancy Frost and Cathy Johnson were chosen to the all-tournament team for their efforts in the state competition. Nef was also named to the all-conference team.
Members of the 1987 team were Stacey Nelson, Patty DeYoung, Annelies Nef, Colette Peters, Anna Marinko, Shelly Stevens, Nancy Frost, Jennifer Jackson, Lisa Harms, Sandy Tschepen, LaNae Harms, Stephanie Bergan and Cathy Johnson. Vicki Nelson, Lisa Harms and Katherine Lange were student managers.
Bergquist had the Bulldogs back in the state championship game the very next season, and once again they faced Lennox. This time Lennox prevailed with a 55-47 win. It was the only loss of the season for the Bulldogs. Milbank had defeated Parkston in first round action and Pine Ridge in the semi-finals.
Milbank finished the 1988 season at 24-1, the best record in school history. They were the first and only Milbank girls team to finish the regular season undefeated. In addition to placing second at state, the 1988 squad won the Northeast Conference (NEC) title with a perfect 14-0 mark. The last time Milbank had won the conference title was in 1981.
Members of the 1988 team were Bergan, Laura Linn Fields, LaNae Harms, Heidi Nef, Peters, Tschepen, Ginny Dohrer, Kathryn Schwab, Christi Wherry, Kris White, Melissa Pauli, Michelle Pauli and Jolene Snaza. Kathy Lange and Nelson were student managers.
The winning tradition continued in 1989 with that year's squad following in the footsteps of the 1987 and 1988 teams. It was a heartbreaking finish to the season as the Lady Bulldogs fell to Pine Ridge 42-40 in the final seconds of the championship game. The Lady Bulldogs had knotted the score at 40 on a 15-foot jumper from Ginny Dohrer with 12 seconds showing on the clock. The Bulldogs had defeated Elk Point 52-36 in the first round of the tournament and Kadoka 41-31 in a semi-final game.
The Lady Bulldogs earned a berth in the state tournament with a victory over Hamlin in the district championship and a win over Webster in the regional title game.
Members of the 1989 team were Dohrer, Wherry, White, Kosier, Pauli, Pauli, Bernie Peters, Becky Piechowski, Dawn Rethke, Lori Opseth, Snaza and Jennifer Aas. Lange and Nelson were student managers. Bergquist was still at the helm.
Supporting the Milbank players during the season and throughout post-season were the Milbank cheerleaders who won the "Spirit of Six" trophy in 1985, 1987 and 1988. The award is based on sportsmanship, enthusiasm and crowd control. The 1985 cheerleaders were Lois Hartman, Jackie Schmidt, Amy Unker, Karen Foss and Laurie Unzen. The 1987 cheerleaders were Jodi Waterfall, Terri Peters, Michelle Ward, Karen Dauwen, Lisa Thompson, Dawn Liebe, Tammy Mogard and Carol Stemsrud. The 1988 cheerleaders were DaNita Miller, Amy Schofield, Karen Dauwen, Teresa Weber and Angie Dahl.
Bergquist was also the coach when Milbank made its first state appearance in 1985. The Bulldogs won their first game over Lemmon 54-50, but then fell to Tri-Valley, 75-43, and Miller, 54-35, to place fourth. They completed the season with a 19-6 record.
Even though Milbank made it to the state tournament in 1985, they did not win the district championship that year. They defeated Groton 61-48 in the first round of district action. Groton had defeated the Bulldogs twice in the regular season.
Facing Webster in the district championship game, Milbank fell 47-44. However, because of the playoff format at the time, the Bulldogs still advanced to the regional tournament. They faced Webster once again in the championship game, but this time were victorious 60-51 and earned the state tournament berth.
Milbank won district titles in 1990 and 1994, but came up short in the regional tournament those years.
Bergquist led the Lady Bulldogs to one more state appearance in 1995 where they placed sixth place. Milbank lost to unbeaten Platte 70-54 in the first round of the tournament, then rebounded to defeat Madison, 59-54, in the consolation round. Milbank was doused 69-39 by Red Cloud in the consolation championship. Milbank finished with a 16-8 record that year and second in the NEC.
It was 11 years before Milbank made another state appearance in 2006, and a 53-51 triple overtime win over Groton in the regional championship propelled them into the state tournament. Jim Dahl was at the helm and led Milbank to its first district title in eight years with a 50-39 win over Britton-Hecla.
Seeded fifth in the state tournament, Milbank defeated No. 4 McCook Central 61-54 in the first round. They fell to the undefeated and No. 1 ranked Dell Rapids 55-36 in the semi-final round. The Bulldogs rebounded with a 56-32 win over Hamlin to claim third place.
The squad repeated as district and region champions in 2007 to gain a berth in the state tournament. Milbank faced Hamlin in the first round and earned a 48-35 victory. The Bulldogs battled eventual champion Vermillion in a semi-final contest and were narrowly defeated 72-70. It was heralded as one of the best-ever girls basketball games in state tournament history.
The Bulldogs rebounded to defeat Dell Rapids 47-37 in the third place battle.
Caitlyn Wojahn and Amber Wollschlager were named to the state all-tournament team and the all-conference first team. Wollschlager was also selected to the Class A all-state second team. Kelsey Paulson was named to the all-conference third team that year.
Several talented Bulldog squads were denied their ticket to the state tournament after falling short in the regional title matches.
The Bulldogs claimed the district championship in 1986 and had hopes for a second straight appearance in the state Class A tournament, but they dropped a 61-33 decision to Groton in the regional championship game.
Milbank came up just short in 1990 as the Sisseton Redmen got two free throws with one second showing on the clock to break a 53-53 tie to win 55-53 in the regional championship match. The win qualified Sisseton for its first-ever state tournament appearance.
The Lady Bulldogs have won 10 district titles in all. In addition to those already mentioned, the 1996 squad defeated Webster 48-35 in the district championship game, but lost to Redfield 55-52 in the regional championship. Bergquist was still head coach, but he stepped down after the 1997 season.
The 1998 squad won the district title under the leadership of new head coach, Cal Nygaard. Milbank fell to Redfield 50-44 in the regional title match.
The Bulldog squad claimed the district championship in 2007-2008, but fell to Sioux Valley in the regional championship, denying Milbank's return to the state tournament.
The 2012-2013 squad claimed Milbank's final district title, but the Bulldogs fell to Aberdeen Roncalli in the regional tournament. Joe Frederiksen was the head coach.
Through the years rivalries have developed with Northeast Conference foes, and the Bulldogs have earned their share of conference crowns.
The first time the Bulldogs were conference champs in 1977, they shared the title with Britton. Pam Palmer was the head coach.
The Bulldogs' first solo NEC championship came in 1979 when Bill Reidburn was head coach. The Bulldogs defeated Sisseton 49-44 to win the title. Jolene Dohrer was named to the all-state team for her efforts that season.
Reidburn led the 1981 girls team to a 13-1 conference record and they shared the NEC conference title with Webster. The Bulldogs were ranked fourth in the state and entered the sectional tournament play with the best record of any of the teams. They were upset by Brookings 64-41, and their bid for a state tournament berth was denied.
Gretchen Schad set new school records during the 1981 season - she had a total of 483 points; most points in a single match, 36; most rebounds in a season, 246, and most rebounds in a career, 555. Schad was also named to the Class A all-state first team.
The 2004-05 squad captured a shared NEC title with Hamlin after defeating Britton-Hecla in the final regular season match. Jim Dahl was head coach.
Changes have occurred in girls basketball throughout the years. Prior to the 1985 season, girls basketball was a two-class system with Milbank facing larger schools such as Brookings and Watertown. The three-class system was formed which improved Milbank?s opportunities to advance in post-season tournaments.
Other changes included girls basketball switching from a fall sport to a winter sport during the 2002-03 school year, and the elimination of district tournaments. Teams now compete in regional match-ups and then advance to the sweet sixteen round.
The Bulldogs played in their first sweet sixteen round last year during Pauli?s first year as head coach. He is hoping to repeat that performance.
"Last season was a special season for a lot of reasons. The obvious, it was my first season as head coach for the Lady Bulldogs. But also there are always challenges when things are new, the girls had to get used to how I coach, and I had to get to know them as well," Pauli said. "This group of young ladies were special not only because it was my first season with them but they were so coachable, they bought into what I was teaching them and they put the team first." According to Pauli, the girls didn't care who scored the most points or played the most minutes, they just wanted to win.
Pauli notes that every season is different for a number of reasons as new roles are determined and new players join the squad. Learning how to play together as a team and executing pose the biggest challenges. "But the number one goal of our team is to get better each game and each practice so we are playing our best basketball at tournament time," he said. The same goal as all past Lady Bulldog squads.
Milbank Coaches
Shanon McCarriar - 1975
Pam Palmer - 1976-1977
Bill Reidburn - 1978-1982
Bill Thurow - 1983-1984
Gordon Bergquist - 1985-1997
Cal Nygaard - 1998-2005
Jim Dahl - 2005-2010
Joe Frederiksen - 2010-2016
Brian Pauli (current)

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