Wildcat women advance in NSIC tournament
Wayne State needed a 19-3 scoring surge late in the third and into the fourth quarter to break opener a close game as the Wildcats held back Minnesota Crookston 72-59 in the first round of the Northern Sun Conference women’s basketball tourament Wednesday at Rice Auditorium in Wayne Wednesday evening.
The game was close throughout between the Golden Eagles and Wildcats until Wayne State’s scoring run late in the third quarter put a little separation between the two teams..
With the score tied at 8-8 near the halfway point of the first quarter, Wayne State went on a 10-3 run, highlighted by 3-pointers from Maggie Lowe and Kacie O’Connor, to take an 18-11 lead with 1:12 to play first quarter before the Golden Eagles cut the lead to 18-16 at the end of the first quarter.
Wayne State held the lead the entire second quarter, but never led by more than six points. The Wildcats led 27-21 following a jumper from Lowe and again at 29-23 on a layup from Paige Ballinger, but the Golden Eagles battled back to knot the score at 29-29 on a jumper by Abby Guidinger before Wayne State got a trey from O’Connor with 1:02 left before halftime for the final points of the half as the hosts led 32-29 at intermission.
Early in the third quarter, Minnesota Crookston took their first lead of the game at 36-34 on an Isieoma Odor jumper at the 8:09 mark, and took their last lead of the night at 40-39 on a pair of Micaela Noga free throws with 6:59 remaining in the quarter. The Wildcats responded, taking the lead for good on a Ballinger basket and three-point play from Erin Norling to go in front 44-40.
The Golden Eagles tied the score one last time at 44-44, but Wayne State closed the final 3:29 on an 11-3 run, canning 8-for-8 from the foul line coupled with an O’Connor 3-pointer to take a 55-47 lead after three quarters. The Wildcats continued their momentum early in the fourth quarter, scoring the first eight points to take a 63-47 lead on a steal and fast-break layup from O’Connor with 6:21 to play and closed out the win to end the Golden Eagles season at 8-19.
Wayne State had four players score in double figures, led by seniors O'Connor and Maggie Schulte with 15 points each. Senior center Paige Ballinger and freshman forward Erin Norling both accounted for 13 points.
Wayne State held a 43-32 advantage in rebounding over the Golden Eagles thanks to nine boards each from Schulte and Ballinger. O’Connor had four of Wayne State’s 11 assists while Ballinger finished with three blocked shots.
Wayne State (25-6) advances to the quarterfinals on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. The Wildcats will face Concordia-St. Paul, an 82-63 winner Wednesday evening at St. Cloud State.