USD coach honors former Coyotes ahead of tourney

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 12, 2014 at 4:26 pm •  Published: March 12, 2014
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota coach Amy Williams is excited to be taking the school to its first NCAA tournament, but she says the team shares that honor with all of the former players and coaches who helped build the program.

The Coyotes topped Denver 82-71 on Tuesday to capture their first Summit League crown after knocking in-state nemesis South Dakota State off its five-year throne a day earlier. The victories are thrusting the university onto the national stage, and Williams said she couldn't be happier.

Williams was hired two years ago to help raise the bar, and the Spearfish native said was fortunate to walk into a situation in which previous coaches put together some great pieces.

"I'm proud for all of the 'Yotes that kind of came before this team that paved the way for us," she said. "You know, we haven't lost sight of all those kids that never got the opportunity to play in this tournament as we were going through that transition."

South Dakota made the jump to Division I athletics in 2008-2009. The Coyotes advanced to the Summit League finals in 2013, but lost to South Dakota State 56-53 in the championship when Alexis Yackley's 3-point attempt bounced off the rim in the final seconds.

Polly Harrington, a senior who scored 16 points in the title game to take tournament MVP honors, remembers how tough it was last year to watch the Jackrabbits celebrate.

"When we were battling, it was just like I don't want this feeling to end so we're going to push until we can't push anymore until we see the results that we want," she said. "And I think collectively as a group, that's what we did because we didn't want that taste in the back of the mouth again."

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