44 games. 749 days.

For the first time since Jan. 10, 2019, the Stanley County Lady Buffaloes basketball team put a checkmark in the win column by defeating the Bennett County Warriors, 33-31, at Parkview Gymnasium in Fort Pierre on Thursday night.

The two teams took a bit to get going. The Lady Buffs held a 4-3 lead after the first quarter. The Warriors responded to take a 13-8 lead going into halftime. The Lady Buffs responded with a good quarter of their own, as they outscored the Warriors 18-5 to take a 26-18 lead into the fourth quarter. With the game tied at 31-31 with less than 10 seconds to go, eighth-grader Morgan Hoffman put up a shot amongst the defense that found its way through. The clock ticked down, and the Warriors were not able to get a quality look. The game ended with Buffs fans roaring with approval, and the Lady Buffs in a triumphant embrace.

Lady Buffs coach Keely Bracelin, who is in her first year as the head coach of the team, told the Capital Journal the feeling of winning is amazing.

“It’s been a long time coming, even more for the girls than myself” Bracelin said. “I’m very proud of them. They’ve been working hard every day. It’s great to see their success come full circle now.”

The last opponent the Lady Buffs were able to earn a victory over was the Bennett County Warriors, and the building they won in two years ago was Parkview Gymnasium. The Lady Buffs have lost three games by seven points or less this season. According to Bracelin, the team tries to build up their confidence before every game.

“They have the ability to win games,” Bracelin said. “We’ve lost out on some opportunities before. We entered 0-12. It came to a point where we don’t want to lose anymore. They had that belief in themselves that they were so close to winning. They had to turn the page, and start doing it. We finally did it tonight.”

Junior center Jordyn Sosa led the Lady Buffs with 18 points, while junior guard Taylee Stroup had 11 points. Senior forward Zoe Long Soldier had 12 points to lead the Warriors.

The Warriors (2-9) will next see action against the Jones County Coyotes (8-3) in Murdo on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. CT. The Lady Buffs (1-12) will play the Lower Brule Sioux (6-5) in Lower Brule on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. CT.

Now that the Lady Buffs have won, what does Thursday’s victory mean for the program?

“I hope it means that we’re headed in the right direction,” Bracelin said. “It has been since day one when I started here. The work that these girls put in has paid off today. I hope that it will continue. I’m looking forward to working with these girls in the off-season. A lot of that is getting them to buy in and believe in this program. I think they’re doing that. Good things are to come from here on out.”

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