While Todd County, 6-2, enter the Warrior Dome Saturday to take on the 2-6 St. Francis Warriors, a rivalry that runs deep with passion and a history of talented players will be rekindled. Over the years of living in Mission, I’ve often heard people refer to Buffy Whipple as being a great player. Now Buffy Grimshaw and living in Rapid City with a freshman daughter on the St. Thomas More PROGRAM, Whipple-Grimshaw took time from her busy week to share a few thoughts on THEE rivalry. Also, over the years, have had the opportunity to visit with Summer Lunderman a number of times. Always love hearing her talk about the team from St. Francis that made it to the state tournament in 1996.
Here are their thoughts and memories leading up to the big game on Saturday:
Buffy-Whipple-Grimshaw: There was quite a rivalry between St. Francis and Todd County girls basketball. We both wanted to beat each other so bad. That’s what I remember. They were tough with Nicole Emery and Toy Lunderman and a great bench. We would come out on top because of the amazing teammates and coaches I had. Just writing this brings back so many memories of being a proud TC athlete. My favorite palyer at that time was Suanne Big Crow. There was nobody like her. I played against her once and she drove the ball and knocked the wind out of me. They killed us, that was predicted. There was no place like the basketball court in those days, it was magical!!
Summer Lunderman: In 1996, Lunderman’s junior year, the Lady Warriors of St. Francis won the Lakota Nation Invitational, and they entered the State tournament where they ended up fourth. In the semis of that state tournament, SF hooked up with Wagner, who had a player named Mandy Koupal, who went on to become the leading scorer in the history of the University of South Dakota.
(Lunderman remembers some of the players on her team…apologize if there are any misspellings) – Summer Lunderman, Alyssa Eagleman, Leanna Marshall, Margo White Hat, Letha Horse Looking….Candace Metcalf, Christa Metcalf, Sunni Prue, Christina Marshall, Jimmy Jo Waln, Lashaun Horse Looking and Cheyenne Marshall.
“We started in seventh grade, kind of when Red was hired as MS coach,” Lunderman said. “He just recognized he had a good group of girls and he stayed with us until we graduated. Red was hired as the SF varsity coach when I was an 8th grader and he took some of us up to the varsity level where we got to play.”
Several times I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with Lunderman about one of the best post players in the history of the SF vs. TC rivalry….6-foot-1, Letha Horse Looking. Always get chills when Lunderman talks about her big girl in the paint.
“I’ve never seen a true post player that had the game Letha had. She stayed in the lane and she had such a commanding presence,” Lunderman said. “Her attitude, she brought 100 percent to every game. When we did sprints she was up with the guards. She put everything into her game. She was a forse down there.”
Lunderman recalls soe of the battles between Horse Looing and Sarah Brave and Amanda Carlow from Pine Ridge. “Any time we matched up with Pine Ridge you were going to see some good battles in the post,” she said.
Lunderman talked about some of the players at Todd County she and the rest of the Lady Warriors had to do battle with.
“My years, Kim Herman stood out because she was an excellent 3-pointer…dead on….Jessie Roubideaux was an energetic point guard…hustling, very competitive and she was their point guard. Tauna Eagle, big girl down low…very athletic, played volleyball and she could jump and get up and down the floor. My junior year they had Rachel Valandra, Sarah Valandra, Jess Stands and Faith Means and I think that group ended up going to state along with my sister Micah.”
Prior to her playing basketball, Lunderman remembers some of the great Todd County players.
“The interesting part of this is that both schools have had a lot of talented girls. I can remember Buffy Whipple, she was very good at basketball. Mandy Busch, she was so athletic in basketball and volleyball…Really looked up to those two.”
As an 8th grader, Summer had the opportunity to play with her sister, Toy. “Toy was four years older and I was able to play varsity ball with her. Nicole Emery was an excellent guard. She was very smart, athletic, quick and had a good shot and I looked up to here growing up. Some
players outside the area…I really looked up to Suanne Big Crow. Her name resonates through Indian Country. Everyone wanted to be like Suanne.”
On why the St. Francis vs. Todd County game always brings extra juice to the playing floor.
“I used to get so excited and I still do, walking into the Ben Reifle, even to this day. There was always excitement, just bragging rights. You are in the same area, two different schools and who is going to get the bragging rights. The games against Todd County I had to prepare more because I didn’t want to lose. No matter what the records were it would always end up being a good game. We were good but TC always made it a great game. It was loud and there is always electricity in the air. It’s a good feeling but over the years there have been a lot of upsets. Sometimes there is an obvious projected winner but when these two play you can throw out the records.
Asked Summer an interesting question about how she thinks participating in athletics has helped her in her adult life, both on a personal and professional level.
“Red was an awesome coach and it seemed like in practice and in games, he would find those teachable moments. He and my dad, Tuffy were very knowledgeable people and they both were able to teach me how to be a team player. This team player thing has carried over into my career as an adult. I work with a lot of different people and being able to be a collaborator and a team player helps me interact with different people that might have different ideas. Being in sports has taught me how to overcome those real hard, tough moments in your life. As a team we faced a lot of adversity going throughout our season (Lunderman’s junior year). We went into the state tournament as the No. 1 seed. Just to have a target on your back and go into these gyms, persevere, go in and do the work, dig your heels in and put out the effort whether you win or lose has been invaluable. Being in athletics taught me how to be a leader. You have to earn and gain trust and responsibility and give 100 percent to the TEAM.”
And it isn’t just her era. Lunderman hears stories from her day about the Boarding School Days and the long-standing rivalries…”It’s good for sports here and brings in a great crowd,” Lunderman said.
Big thanks to Summer for sharing her memories of this rivalry. She even recalls having to eat a little humble pie along the way.
“Every since my freshman year, TC never beat us but I went to Todd County my senior year and St. Francis beat us….It was a shot to the ego.”