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Final Four Trojans remember 1991-92 postseason well
March 27, 2012
MADISON, S.D. - "It was a great run for us in the postseason of 1992," said Earnest 'Blue' Monette from his Desoto, Texas home, referring to Dakota State's seven-game win streak which carried the basketball-playing Trojans to the NAIA National Tournament's Final Four in Stephensville, Texas in March of 1992.
"Coach (Brian) McDermott let us play our game," added Monette who is a staffing specialist for Southwest Airlines. "He kept us together, making sure we played the game the right way. The playoffs were a great time for us."
Monette was 'primetime' for DSU's Trojans in the 1991-92 season and played a vital role for a team which entered postseason play with a sub-.500, 12-15 mark having lost to Mount Marty's Lancers 82-76 in their regular-season finale.
The Trojans turned right around and had to play Mount Marty again right away in the first round of the NAIA's District 12 playoffs. This time, though, Dakota State crushed the Lancers 105-83, extending their postseason.
Next, the Trojans picked off heavily-favored and regular-season SDIC champion Dakota Wesleyan 80-72.
DSU had a quartet of double-figure scorers to knock off the No. 10 ranked Tigers. Cory Otterdahl led the way with 21 points, followed by Bruce Koele with 18. Monette and Fred Fleming added 15 and 10 points, respectively.
"In the postseason, we 'hated' Dakota Wesleyan," said Fleming, who now owns three laundry franchises in Chatsworth, California area. "Once we won that game, we started having fun."
It's the opinion of Monette, Fleming and Isaac Clark – the three Trojan guards – it was the Trojans' comeback 70-68 win over Northern State at Aberdeen in the District 12 semifinals that gave the Trojans the confidence that eventually put DSU on its way to the NAIA Nationals.
NSU's Wolves saw a 15-point, 43-28 halftime lead disappear in the second-half. Otterdahl celebrated his 24th birthday with five 3-pointers and 28 points (21 in the second-half) to pace the Trojans' come-from-behind win. Koele and Kevin Smith each had nine points for the victors.
"In the second-half, we played the best 20 minutes of basketball at the point of the season," said Monette at the time. "It showed us what we were made of," added Fleming.
"Beating this nationally-ranked team (Northern State was ranked No. 8) really gave us the feeling that we could beat anybody," said Clark, who is an entertainment consultant, along with managing the 400 Sound Bar in Minneapolis nowadays.
Dakota State had to then get past South Dakota Tech in the District 12 finals.
With the confidence gained with the win at Aberdeen versus Northern State, the Trojans were able to post a two-point, 86-84, win over the Hardrockers in Rapid City. Monette and Otterdahl notched a pair of 24-point games and powered DSU into the NAIA Tournament.
Monette and Otterdahl continued to be the Trojans' 1-2 scoring duo against Edgewood College of Madison, Wis., in the first-round NAIA Tournament play in Stephensville's Wisdom Gym on March 12.
Monette pumped in 21 points and Otterdahl, with four 3-pointers, poured in 17 to propel the 20th-seeded Trojans to an 86-70 win, putting them against No. 1 seed King College of Bristol, Tenn.
"As far as the Number 20 team beating the Number 1 team, it's a bunch of hooey as to how they (the NAIA) rank teams," said McDermott after his Trojans beat King College 92-79. Post players Koele and Maurice Peterson registered 19- and 17-point games for the Trojans, while Otterdahl was right behind with 16.
"We dominated the game because of our defensive skills," said McDermott after the Tournament in Dakota State's newspaper, The Eastern. "We executed our game plan well and controlled the tempo of the game. We got them out of their usual rhythm."
"It was remarkable how we went from being a very average team to a very successful one," said Pat Winter, another Trojan post player, who is now on the staff of one of Minneapolis' leading health care providers. "I learned that no matter what starts out badly, it can turn around in a blink of an eye."
In the NAIA quarterfinals against William Jewell (Mo.), Monette paced the Trojans' offense with a 25-point show, with 19 of those coming in the second-half, leading DSU to an 83-77 win. Otterdahl finished with 19 points. Clark and Koele tacked on, respectively 16 and 15 points. DSU shot 62 percent from the field, going 31-for-50, while limiting William Jewell to just 49-percent, 27-for-55 field goal shooting.
The Trojans' run was cut short, literally speaking, when a very-ill Clark underwent an emergency appendectomy in Stephensville hospital just prior to DSU's semifinals' game against Orange City, Iowa's Northwestern.
Dakota State lost that game 91-68, ending their season at 19-16.
"My appendix had ruptured," said Clark. "At that time and now, I still feel I let the team down."
"You have to appreciate what kind of opportunity it was to get to the NAIA National Tournament," said McDermott from his coach's desk at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore.
McDermott has been the head coach for Southern Oregon since 1996, amassing 224 wins there at Ashland. That's second only to Ted Schoepf, who had 231 wins at Southern Oregon.
"Our team in '91-92 is still the best passing team I've ever had and been around," added McDermott. "That team had a special trio of guards in 'Blue', Isaac and Fred. But, all of our guys figured out their roles, went out and executed the game plan well.
Dan Holsworth, Dakota State University Athletics Assistant
Edited by Nick Huntimer, Dakota State University Sports Information Director