Friday, March 29, 2013

Onida's Alexis Yackley Brought an Unrelenting Desire to Win to Coyote WBB


Alexis Yackley, a prep standout from Onida (SD), ended her collegiate career with The University of South Dakota Women's Basketball Team on Thursday night in a 71-63 loss to McN
Alexis Yackley - USD Women's BB senior point guard
eese State. Yackley, who will attend the USD Law School, was one of the school's most intense competitors and classy ambassadors.

She was part of a Coyote squad that went to three straight postseason tournaments (twice to WBI and last year in the WNIT), putting together a 4-3 record. In their first try at the DI level, the Coyotes finished second in the Summit League Tournament, winning two of three games, with the only loss a heart-breaking 56-53 loss to rival SDSU in the championship. During her career, Yackley was part of a team that won 19 games (19-16, 2012-13, 23-8, 2011-12; 20-12, 2010-11) or more three straight years. In her final game vs. McNeese State, she was on the USD team that tied a school record for most games played in a season (35, 33-2 mark by 2007-08 team) and the first Coyotes team to host a semifinal contest in a DI postseason tournament.

Yackley was a starter in the latest game ever played at the DakotaDome (WNIT, 64-55 loss to Colorado, March 19, 2011-12) on Thursday, March 28. In her finale, Yackley hit 1-2 of field goals (a three-pointer) with seven rebounds and three assists. She finished her career with 445 assists (fourth all-time at USD) with 539 points, 406 rebounds, 85 three-point baskets, 134 steals, and 22 blocked shots.

As a Gettysburg Battlers alum, it was great to see a former Sully Buttes standout star at my alma mater. The Battlers and Chargers have waged some big-time battles in all sports over the years - some of which I was part of (if I can remember back that far). Watching and also interviewing Yackley was an honor and something I will remember and appreciate. From what I observed, she brought an unrelenting desire to win, constant in-your-face defensive pressure, matched by a "never say quit" attitude, which I believe helped USD women's basketball sustain success on and off the floor.

Yackley’s arrival in Vermillion took a detour through Iowa State, an Elite Eight team when she appeared in 26 games for the Cyclones in 2008-09 as a true freshman. She had chosen the Cyclones after a highly successful career at Onida where she led the Chargers to five straight state tournament appearances including back-to-back titles in 2006-08.

Over the final 16 games this season, Yackley, a three-year starter, helped USD win 10-of-16 games, finish 19-16 and finish third in the Summit League (10-6) for the second straight year. Yackley's leadership was especially needed for a team picked to finish sixth by media and coaches in a Summit League preseason poll and then hit hard by injuries with one projected starter and four others lost to injuries before games began in 2012-13. Led by the example of Yackley and four seniors, USD women's basketball was willed to win every night. The result was a memorable season that ended back where the season started at the DakotaDome.

At her final post-game press conference, Yackley talked about the team and their great postseason run. Here are some excerpts of her comments.

"I want to say thanks to all the Coyote fans, especially all of the fans that have been coming to our games for the past year and all of the other years. It was a great run. Our goal was to be playing our best basketball toward the end. And, you know, we made a great run in the conference tournament and we made a great run here. Won two postseason games, it was fun.

Alexis Yackley in Summit League Tournament
 (Photos courtesy of USD Sports Information)
“We were obviously super disappointed that we had lost that game against State (SDSU in Summit League Championship) when we led almost the whole way. I think it was a great game, a great atmosphere for girls basketball; great atmosphere for the state. We would have liked to win but we were excited that we were able to extend our careers a little while longer and win two games, two road games (in the WBI). To go in Lamar where they won 39 g
ames in a row and get a 71-48 win on them.

"We had a last chance (Thursday in WBI semifinals at the DakotaDome) to play in front of Coyote fans, in front of our parents and unfortunately it didn’t roll our way. But, we had a great run. It meant everything to be back here. It brought a tear to my eye. We hung our hats on being tough and try to exude in practice and games. I hope fans saw that and it stays with them. We may not be tallest, strongest or most athletic but you can play the hardest and I think our team showed that."

Kudos to Yackley and all the Coyote seniors, including Tempestt Wilson, Pam January, Sam Mehr and McKayla Knudson.





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