The Cinderella Story strikes in Watertown

The eighth-seeded Viborg-Hurley Cougars defeated second-seeded De Smet 58-53 Saturday night at the Watertown Civic Arena to claim its first co-op State Girls Basketball Championship.

The Class B Champion Cougars trailed De Smet most of the game, but took a late lead in the third quarter and pushed through in the fourth quarter to complete the Cinderella Story.

“Unbelievable,” Viborg-Hurley head coach Molly Mason said. “This is just so incredible. I envisioned this and now I’m living it.”

The Cougars upset the top-seeded Aberdeen Roncalli Thursday and pulled out a win over Corsica-Stickney, the fifth seed, Friday to punch their ticket to the championship game. From there, the only thing that stood in Viborg-Hurley’s way was the 2019 Champion Bulldogs.

De Smet defeated Aberdeen Christian Thursday night and slipped past Faith in double-overtime Friday to meet Viborg-Hurley. The Bulldogs jumped ahead early, stretched a lead up to near double digits, but the Cougars never gave up.

“We were down a majority of the game and every timeout, every moment, that was my message,” Mason said. “Keep fighting, keep battling, we’re not giving up. This is your guys’ game to win so they kept grinding away and here we are, we ended up on top.”

Keep battling they did, as the push in the fourth quarter sealed the deal for the Cougars. Viborg-Hurley junior Coral Mason is Molly’s daughter, and Coral, with teammate Denae Mach, were named to the all-tournament team.

“My daughter, she’s worked so hard for this, and as a mom speaking right now, I’m so proud of her,” Molly Mason said. “A lot of the time it’s player and coach at home, but she’s worked so hard, the girls have worked so hard. They deserved it, they earned it, so I’m so happy for them.”

For the Viborg-Hurley school district, it is the first girl’s basketball title as a co-op. Hurley won the 1992 title in Watertown on March 12, the same day and location as the 2022 championship. Mason’s sister, Kim Schroedermeier, played for the 1992 champions and is a statistician for the 2022 Cougars.

“For the co-op, we’ve had such a strong boys program and that’s all you usually hear about from Viborg-Hurley, so I’m just proud that the girls are now a part of that success,” Mason said. 

All along, the Cougars knew, despite being the bottom seed, that they were at the State Tournament to win.

“I felt like we were there and were one of the teams to compete with,” Mason said. “I felt like we had a great chance the way our girls were playing at the end of the season. Postseason, they were in the zone, they were ready to come out here and give every game everything they had, so they did a good job.”