High School Girls Basketball

Arlington finishes as runner-up in Class B tournament

After advancing to state championship game for first time, Cardinals have plenty to be proud of


RAPID CITY — The Arlington Cardinals; trip to the Class B State Tournament was a decade in the making. 

Arlington head coach Tara King first met many of the players on the team as small kids when she began coaching in 2014 and as that group came together, they went on to do something that no team has done in school history.

The run ended when the Cardinals finished as runners-up after a 62-44 loss to Centerville in the Class B championship game on Saturday night. But while the Cardinals didn’t win the state title, they were the first team from Arlington to reach the title game, which is something that wasn’t lost on King and the rest of her team.

“We didn’t come out on top but we have so much to be proud of and so much to be thankful for having the opportunity to play,” King said. “There are so many good teams and so many good players who come to this time of the year and they fall short, so they don’t have that opportunity. So we’re thankful and proud of everything that we were able to accomplish this season.”

The Cardinals' run at the state tournament began on Thursday afternoon with a 51-41 win over James Valley Christian. The following night, the Cardinals faced Ethan, who handed Arlington its only Class B loss of the season in a 51-41 defeat at the Hanson Classic on Jan. 19.

While the Rustlers’ zone defense forced seven Arlington turnovers that led to a 15-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Cardinals responded with a 10-2 run that allowed Arlington to take a 27-25 lead into halftime.

Ethan came back to tie the game at 34-34 going into the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals’ defense that helped get them to the State Tournament came up large as they held the Rustlers without a point over the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter. 

Addalyn Steffensen and Jaelyn Huntimer hit 3-pointers to give Arlington a 40-34 lead with 1:14 to play and Madeline Bartscher hit a 3-pointer and Rachel Klock made a layup between a free throw by Addalyn Steffensen to make it a 41-39 game with 30 seconds to go. But Huntimer added a free throw on the following possession and the Cardinals forced another stop to punch their ticket to the state championship game.

Huntimer finished with a game-high 24 points to go with three assists and two rebounds in the win while Jolyssa Steffensen had seven points and five rebounds and Addalyn Steffensen finished with five points and ten rebounds.

The victory sent the Cardinals to their first state championship game on Saturday night but Centerville took control early with a 12-1 run to finish the first quarter with a 16-5 lead. Arlington continued to struggle on offense in the second quarter and finished the first half 6-of-24 from the field and 0-for-5 on 3-pointers as the Tornadoes held a 34-14 lead at halftime.

Centerville extended its lead to 44-22 at the end of the third quarter but the Cardinals kept fighting. A layup by Addalyn Steffensen cut the lead to 47-32 with 5:33 to play but that would be the closest Arlington would get as the Tornadoes closed out the game and won their first state championship.

While the Cardinals were disappointed, they took solace in their experience at the tournament. A strong contingent of fans made the five-hour drive to see them play and the support was something Arlington cherished throughout the weekend.

“It was awesome,” King said of the tournament. “From the fan support to all of the extras getting to watch the games, the time spent together and the time on the floor in a great venue. Everything was just what you could hope for.”

The Cardinals also walked away with some accolades as Huntimer and Harley Johnson were named to the Class B All-Tournament team.

Huntimer averaged 15.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game and Johnson averaged 9.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and two steals per game during the tournament. But while they were great individual accolades, King believes it shows the type of teamwork that opened things up for everyone on the floor.

“They had a great tournament but what I keep telling everyone is that all of our girls do important things,” King said. “All of the girls on the floor react on what the defense gives us and while Jaelyn and Harley had great tournaments, they had a great year as well.”

Although Johnson will move on due to graduation, the entire roster is set to return next season. That leaves King and the rest of the Cardinals with a sense of pride and optimism for what they could do next year.

“Going to a state tournament and having the opportunity to play in a state championship is something these girls have dreamt about since they were little,” King said. “Even back then I knew this group was going to be a special one. I’m so thankful we got to share this experience together and am so proud of this group of girls for all that they accomplished this season.”