By Rich Winter
Prior to the All-Native 17-U squad playing their first AAU game of the summer in Omaha, White River’s Marc Marshall and Red Cloud’s Amanda Carlow kept telling the girls to expect a different level of play. Despite the former All-Staters and college players reminding the girls they couldn’t jog back or gently toss in lob passes to the post, the mood didn’t get serious until just before tip.
Prior to their first game, Marshall upped the ante with a harsher reminder. “These girls are out here to kick your ass,” she said. “They don’t care how tall you are, they don’t care where you are from, all they want to do is beat you.” As Carlow and Marshall expected, their Sacred Hoops 17-U squad wasn’t ready.
“That first game they got banged up a bit and afterwards there were a lot of ‘Big-Eyes’ in the room,” Marshall said.
When the first practices for Sacred Hoops were unleashed in March, Marshall was there. While she’s officially listed as an Assistant Coach for the All-Native 16-U squad she’s there for drills, moral support and to share the wisdom that comes from being named a first-team All-State player for three consecutive years in the early 90’s
Marc Strain’s love of Basketball started early:
In the mid to late 1980’s Jim Calhoon’s White River girls were tough as nails. Strain, who didn’t start high school until 1991 had the benefit of having older sister, Christine, going through the program. While there was no open gym and no summer training, having family in the gym meant Calhoon ‘allowed’ the youngest Strain daughter to ‘hang-out’
Hanging out meant shooting baskets, watching and learning without playing and staying until the moment the lights in the gym went out.
“I was in the gym all the time and when the other girls went home I stayed as long as I could before Calhoon kicked me out,” Strain said.
(From this point forward, Strain will be referred to as Marshall).
One year during a big-time South Dakota snowstorm everyone left and the young Marshall was stuck in the gym.
“Coach Calhoon came out and found me, shook his head and took me home,” Marshall said. “In my day there was no open gym so I was pretty fortunate to have that early basketball experience.”
Marshall honed her game through middle-school before breaking into the scene for White River as a freshman.
“I was the 6th-man as a freshman but got in right away,” Marshall said. “I played JV my freshman year but also played every quarter of every varsity game.
After being coached by Dana Crews her freshman year, Marshall said her basketball world blossomed when White River hired Dick Vosburg. A year earlier Marshall said practices weren’t organized and with a few player shenanigans practice would start 20-minutes late with their then coach making them run instead of practicing.
How much is a great coach worth?
When Vosburg came in, practice changed and Marshall gained confidence from a coach that did things the right way.
“When you have someone that is respected and organized and believes in you, it makes you confident,” Marshall said. “I felt like he believed in me and he gave me the green light.”
And, he gave Marshall the burning desire to compete.
“I was out for blood on the court,” Marshall said. “If there was a loose ball I was going to do everything to get that ball. That’s how our practices were and it just toughened us up.”
While Marshall was a rising start in central South Dakota she attributes her success to two seniors, two leaders, Nancy (Deiss) Beardt and Paige Jensen who Marshall said were like big sisters on and off the court.
“I felt like I was protected out there,” Marshall said. “They allowed me to have the green light, there was no jealousy, they just wanted to win and we were on the same road together and that really helped.”
While Marshall and the 1992 Tigers were having a great season, Marshall was just playing and didn’t think to much about the post-season until Colome standout Roxanne Carter came over to shake hands with the Lady Tigers after a game in Colome.
“After the game she shook hands and said good luck at state you guys are going to go far,” Harter told the White River girls. “She was really good and having someone like her that I highly respected meant a lot.”
After a successful run through the regular season the Tigers won a District title and found themselves playing Mobridge in the Region Championship at Riggs high school in Pierre. Marshall walked out of the locker room to an enormous crowd.
“I about died,” Marshall recalls with a laugh. “We hadn’t played in front of a crowd like that, there were no in-season classics and the thought was ‘Holy Smokes, all these people came out to see us play.”
After defeating Mobridge, White River was on to the state tournament. A lot of players and teams get the jitters upon arriving at the Big DANCE. Marshall said she felt nervous but no pressure and once she looked up in the crowd to see her parents, Mick and Peri, all was good.
A win over Sisseton set up a semi-final with a Michelle Carlow led Red Cloud squad that lost to Miller 50-46 in the 1991 state championship game.
“Red Cloud had Michelle and Dani LeBeaux (spelling?) and they had a big girl that was freaking tough,” Marshall said.
White River slipped past the Dusty LeBeaux coached Lady Crusaders and into the Class A state championship game running smack dab into the defending state champs, the Miller Rustlers.
In Part 11 of this story, we’ll hear about that state championship game, the current run of success from the White River boys and how Marc Marshall is ALL-IN when it comes to Sacred Hoops.
On Sacred Hoops – “It has been great for the girls and great is too mild of a word,” Marshall said. “Not too many coaches are going to come to Pine Ridge to watch a girls’ game to recruit so getting these girls in front of more coaches is going to open some doors.”