'We grew a little more tonight": Lady Indians second half switch up lifts them past Dunseith
Heading into halftime of Four Winds/Minnewaukan's game against Dunseith, it was looking like the game was going to end up similar to the team's last meeting with the Dragons two weeks ago to the day: the final shot dictating the finish.
The Lady Indians fell into a hole in the second quarter, being outscored by the Dragons 18-9 for Dunseith to take over the lead 29-24. The turnovers and the fouls piled up for Four Winds, and the momentum swung pretty hard in favor of the Dragons. The Lady Indians were at a crossroads at halftime, one which would eventually play a key role in the young teams' growth and identity: let the Dragons have their way or continue to claw back.
Nine turnovers in the second quarter narrowed down to four in the third, and a strong offensive showing from juniors Mahpiya Jackson and Myona Dauphinais would not only complete the comeback but power Four Winds/Minnewaukan (3-4, 0-0 Region 4 District 7) past Dunseith (4-4, 1-0 Region 4 District 8) 65-52.
"We were down seven or eight at one point and we could've given up, but we showed some real heart," Lady Indians head coach Sean Gourd said. "We dug in and made some really big stops when we had to. We battled through some adversity and grew a little more tonight. We could've given up, but we didn't."
After last season's second-place finish at regionals, standards have been high for the Lady Indians, but at the same time, Four Winds was going through a substantial identity change. The team had graduated Riah Littleghost and Latasha Bellile, two of the Lady Indians playmakers inside the arc. Their roles helped Dauphinais become one of the hottest 3-pointer shooters in the state and allowed the team to become a pass and shoot squad.
With the duo gone, this year's team has learned more and more about its new identity as it goes deeper into the season. Dauphinais is one of the players who has had to change up her style, moving from a shooting role to a player who can also drive to the net. Against the Dragons, Dauphinais showed that she's adapting well into her new role as she would down 21 points, scoring seven field goals from inside the paint.
"This year Myonna has to take on a lot of different responsibilities," Gourd said. "Last year it was catch and shoot, and run the floor. This year she's gotta handle the ball, run the offense, and is usually the best player on the perimeter side. It's been an adjustment for her early, but she is stepping up nicely. She understands that she needs to be a leader out there."
Her switch up of roles saw more growth Monday according to Gourd she played a major role in the turnover clean up. Another player who was also able to find the net from inside and outside the arc throughout the night was Jackson. While she would be playing with four fouls late in the game, she could not be stopped in the second half, draining 19 points for an overall team high total of 22. In the fourth quarter alone, she would down two 3's to add to her quarter total of 14.
Jackson was red hot, but there were some nerves according to Gourd to leave her out on the court with four fouls. The game was still within reach for Dunseith and a few plays later junior Mallory Yankton would end up fouling out of the game. In retrospect, it was Jackson's second-half performance the made up the margin of victory for the Lady Indians.
"I was asking the fellas if we should leave her in and if we trusted her, and we said let's go with it, " Gourd chuckled. "Sometimes she wants to stick her hand in and I tell her I rather have her in the rest of the game to give up those two points. She's getting smarter with that and she's understanding that she's more valuable to us on the floor than giving up two points. She's well rounded and does a lot of good things for us."
The Lady Indians piece at center, junior Ezura Rainbow, broke into double figures in points with 12 but showed visible frustration when shots didn't fall. Gourd said while she may not be the team's leading scorer, Rainbow plays a major role for the Lady Indians under the net and into their overall offensive cycle.
"She gets leaned on and pushed around, and everyone knows while she doesn't lead us in scoring, she's our centerpiece," Gourd said. "She rebounds on defense for us, she's a good passer and talks a lot on defense. Those are the little things that don't show up on the stat sheet that are very valuable to us. We've got to feed her a little more and we're working on that."
Monday's win showed growth in the young Lady Indians squad. It was only two weeks ago that Dauphinais was throwing a shot up into the air, with the final buzzer ringing in her ear, to pull off a narrow 64-63 win over the Dragons. 14 days later the Lady Indians blasted back to beat the same team by 13. There were flashes of the last meeting, but lessons from the last game and the ability to adjust to Dunsieth's attack after halftime made a difference.
Learning from each bout the season, whether the team wins or not, is something that the Lady Indians have proved in their early, challenging schedule. Four Winds has faced a handful of state-ranked competitors this season in No. 3 Grafton, No. 10 Carrington, and No. 5 Thompson. While those three games didn't end in favor of the Lady Indians, the team has followed the same motto as the boy's team: if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
"Playing against Thompson, Grafton, Carrington, and Velva was a tough game, exposes a lot of weaknesses for us and we try to focus on that," Gourd said. "As the season progresses, we're learning from those. We watch the tape, see a lot of holes in our game, and it's nice to play some tough teams. And we still have a handful of tough teams coming up."
While the Lady Indians aren't even halfway into their schedule, this upcoming week could add more growth to Four Winds' overall identity. A win over Dunseith, who is currently in the upper half of the regional standings, give the Lady Indians a boost heading into their game against Benson County on Tuesday. The Wildcats are another team that is battling for the top spot in the district. Four Winds gets Warwick on Thursday and wraps up a four-game week against No. 7 Kenmare on Saturday.
"I'm hoping that this is a start of a big momentum shift for us," Gourd said. "If we get Benson, Warwick, and Kenmare, which is a big game for us. We'll see what we're made of and how it goes from here. As long as we keep getting better, I'll be content."
Four Winds/Minnewaukan 65, Dunseith 52
Four Winds/Minnewaukan - 15, 9, 21, 20 - 65
Dunseith - 11, 18, 18, 5 - 52
Four Winds/Minnewaukan (3-4, 0-0) -- 5 6-8 22, Dauphinais 7 1-2 21, Rainbow 4 4-6 12, Fassett 3 0-0 6, Yankton 1 0-0 2, Littleghost 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 11-16 65
Dunseith (4-4, 1-0) -- Prouty 5 3-3 19, Davis 4 3-3 12, Strong 2 1-2 11, Lafountain 0 0-0 9, Short 0 2-5 2. Totals 11 9-13 52.
3-pointers: Four Winds/Minnewaukan 4 (Dauphinais 2, Jackson 2). Dunseith 7 (Lafountain 3, Straong 2, Prouty 2)