Basketball

Halling leads Harrisburg to first-ever AA state championship berth

RAPID CITY — Sydney Halling wasn’t feeling it at the outset of Friday’s semifinal against No. 4 Rapid City Central.

Harrisburg's Sydney Halling (34) reacts after their 49-44 win over Rapid City Central in a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.

Harrisburg’s Sydney Halling (34) reacts after their 49-44 win over Rapid City Central in a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.

But then her third shot of the game went down with 97 seconds left in the first half and suddenly, the floodgates burst open.

The junior guard took control of the game, scoring 16 of her team’s 20 points over a crucial stretch between the first and second halves to lead top-seeded Harrisburg to a 49-44 win in the Class AA girls semifinals Friday afternoon at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.

It is the Tigers’ first-ever Class AA championship berth and their first overall since 2013 when they won the Class A title in their final season at that classification.

COMPLETE COVERAGE:  Class AA state tournaments

“At the beginning of the game, I felt like it wasn’t going to be my best game and that meant I needed to get the ball to my teammates,” Halling said. “Then I saw one go down and it just kept going and things just kept happening.”

Halling led all scorers with 27 points on 8 of 15 shooting. She also pulled in eight rebounds, and knocked down a series of crucial free throws late in regulation to help stifle the Cobblers’ final charge.

Jeniah Ugofsky added 11 points for the Tigers, who shot 30 percent from the field as a team and hit 13 of 18 free throws in the second half.

“We knew that we were better than that team and we just had to keep believing,” Halling said. “We had to keep pounding it and keep pounding it and then things would work at the end.”

The Tigers struggled to find their footing against Rapid City Central’s physical defense, falling behind 16-8 midway through the second quarter.

“We didn’t shoot it well (in the first half), but it felt like they got us into a funk,” Harrisburg coach Nick Mayer said. “Offensively, we couldn’t get a good shot, couldn’t get anything to go and it just wasn’t working for us. They were so good at keeping us out of the lane.”

But then Ugofsky provided the spark. She collected the rebound off Halling’s missed free throw and sliced her way to the basket for an easy layup.

Halling took over from there.

Harrisburg players react from the bench after a teammate scored during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg players react from the bench after a teammate scored during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

She accounted for the team’s next seven points, including a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left that pulled the Tigers within three entering the break.

Her hot streak continued into the second half, accounting for nine of Harrisburg’s first 13 points, including the go-ahead bucket less than 90 seconds in.

Despite falling behind by as many as eight late in the third quarter, the Cobblers refused to fade down the stretch, cutting the margin to four behind an old-fashioned 3-point play with 25 seconds left in regulation.

“Once we got the lead, then it was just no looking back,” Mayer said. “Give credit to Central. They fought all the way to the bitter end. It wasn’t in doubt until we made those last couple free throws at the end.”

Maddison Sullivan led the Cobblers with 11 points and four assists. Abby Johnson added nine points.

Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen .

Rapid City Central fans cheer on their team during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Harrisburg Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Rapid City Central fans cheer on their team during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Harrisburg Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Jeniah Ugofsky (30) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Jeniah Ugofsky (30) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg takes on Rapid City Central in a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg takes on Rapid City Central in a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Mac Mertz (33) takes a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Mac Mertz (33) takes a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg players react from the bench after a teammate scored during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg players react from the bench after a teammate scored during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg players react after a teammate scored during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg players react after a teammate scored during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Sami Slaughter (3) reaches for a rebound over Rapid City Central's Juneau Jones (42) and Abby Johnson (21) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Sami Slaughter (3) reaches for a rebound over Rapid City Central’s Juneau Jones (42) and Abby Johnson (21) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Sydney Halling (34) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Sydney Halling (34) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Sami Slaughter (3) dribbles past Rapid City Central's Mya Jones (23) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Sami Slaughter (3) dribbles past Rapid City Central’s Mya Jones (23) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Jeniah Ugofsky (30) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Jeniah Ugofsky (30) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Sami Slaughter (3) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Sami Slaughter (3) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Sami Slaughter (3) dribbles past Rapid City Central's Mya Jones (23) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Sami Slaughter (3) dribbles past Rapid City Central’s Mya Jones (23) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Sami Slaughter (3) dribbles past Rapid City Central's Mya Jones (23) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Sami Slaughter (3) dribbles past Rapid City Central’s Mya Jones (23) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Sami Slaughter (3) drives to the basket past Rapid City Central's Mya Jones (23) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Sami Slaughter (3) drives to the basket past Rapid City Central’s Mya Jones (23) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Rapid City Central players react from the bench after a teammate scored during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Harrisburg Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Rapid City Central players react from the bench after a teammate scored during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Harrisburg Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Rapid City Central's Mya Jones (23) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Harrisburg Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Rapid City Central’s Mya Jones (23) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Harrisburg Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Sami Slaughter (3) gets the tipoff over Rapid City Central's Michelle Johnson (40) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Sami Slaughter (3) gets the tipoff over Rapid City Central’s Michelle Johnson (40) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Jeniah Ugofsky (30) dribbles toward the basket during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Jeniah Ugofsky (30) dribbles toward the basket during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Sydney Halling (34) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday's final.

Harrisburg’s Sydney Halling (34) goes up for a shot during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game against Rapid City Central Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Harrisburg beat Rapid City Central 49-44, and will play in Saturday’s final.

Harrisburg's Sami Slaughter (3) gets the tipoff over Rapid City Central's Michelle Johnson (40) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.

Harrisburg’s Sami Slaughter (3) gets the tipoff over Rapid City Central’s Michelle Johnson (40) during a 2017 SDHSAA Class AA State Girls Basketball semifinal game Friday, March 17, 2017, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.