The Sioux Falls Lincoln Patriots began their quest to get back to the Class AA girls' state tournament by upending Yankton 54-29 in the opening round of the District 2AA Girls' Basketball Tournament Monday at the Lincoln High School gym.

Yankton scored the first five points of the game. Lincoln answered with 7-0 run and held a 12-9 first quarter lead.

The teams traded leads four times in the early going of the second quarter as Lincoln was down 15-14 but went on a 12-0 flurry to close out the half and lead at the break 26-14.

Lincoln (13-7) put the game out of reach in the third quarter, starting the second half with a 15-2 run. There was a 13 minute game stretch where Lincoln's defense held the Gazelles to just one field goal. It got ugly in a hurry. Yankton would get no closer than 22 points the rest of the way.

Lincoln's senior point guard Darby Hugunin returned to the court and chipped in 10 points grabbed six rebounds and had three steals in her first game back since breaking her arm January 22 against Sioux Falls Washington.

"It's really tough to sit and watch knowing you can't go in," said Hugunin. "I just had a positive attitude, kept praying and hoping that I'd get my chance to return and tonight I did."

Cera Ledbetter posted 18 points and eight rebounds to lead Lincoln. She had 13 points and seven rebounds at half. Sophomore Ellie Brecht notched 10 points.

When Hugunin was injured the Patriots admirably went 5-4 and gained some needed minutes and experience with other players.

Hugunin and coach Lyle Pearson said the team's goal was to come out play hard and set the tone with a high level of intesity.

"I was nervous, we didn't know what to expect, then we settled in and we were fine," noted Hugunin as the Patriots fell behind 5-0 early.

Yankton (4-15) converted only 11 field goals in the game and was led by Mikala Hora's 12 points.

Pearson said the Patriots wanted to limit the points the Gazelle's got in the paint and from their post players. The Patriots did that, Kelsey Fitzgerald had six points and Kelsey Butler only scored four.

Lincoln also held a 33-24 edge on the boards.

"You need to rebound and get loose balls," cited Pearson as keys to the contest before the game.

The Pats will play Sioux Falls Washington (19-2) at the Warrior gym on Thursday for the District 2AA crown and a ticket to the state tournament next week in Rapid City.

"I think we just have to play hard," said Hugunin. "Usually the team that plays the hardest wins. I'm confident, we'll play fine."

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