By: Ross Struss/Print; Sam Gentry/Video; Chloe Ekberg/Photos
After winning 11 of the last 12 national championships only one team from the Great Plains Athletic Conference was left. Morningside College fell to the Wildcats of Indiana Wesleyan by a score of 65-64 in the Monday evening semifinal at Tyson Event Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Mustangs did not start so hot in this game. Trailing with a score of 15-1, just over five minutes into the game.
Indiana Wesleyan, however, shot a blazing 87 percent through that same period of time while Morningside only managed 14 percent hitting one of seven shots.
“I thought our start was really big because it took the crowd out of it. It took their student section out of it and it got quiet. And I think we gained some confidence then and started to play with more flow,” said Indiana Wesleyan Head Coach Steve Brooks.
Mid-way through the first half things hadn’t really improved too much as the Mustangs still trailed by 14 points.
A shot clock violation at the 7:32 mark by the Wildcats gave Morningside an opportunity to cut into the lead, but Morningside’s, Jordan Wollenburg was only able to hit one of those shots. After a quick steal and a three-point basket Indiana Wesleyan head coach, Steve Brooks was forced to call a timeout as the Mustangs closed within 10.
Morningside managed 16 points off the bench in the first half while the Bobcat reserves only managed five. The half closed out with Indiana Wesleyan leading by a score of 39-30. Paige Smith of Indiana Wesleyan led the teams in scoring with 17 points while Ashlynn Muhl led Morningside with seven points.
“For the most part, what we did was we didn’t let them run, they only got one three in transition and we knew coming out we had to stuff them in the half court,” Brooks said.
The second half began pretty even as both teams were scoring baskets. Morningside closed within nine on a basket by Bobbi McManaman with just under 15 minutes left in the game. Allison Bachman nailed a three-pointer at the 13:05 mark cutting the lead to six forcing a timeout by the Bobcats who had to this point a relatively quiet second half.
“We knew they had a run in them, they are just too good and they’ve done it in so many other games. And we knew with five minutes left this was still anyone’s game,” said Brooks.
The mustangs improved their shooting percentage to 44 percent over their offensive push to start the second half.
Ashlynn Muhl still led the Mustangs in scoring at this point with nine while Paige Smith of Indiana Wesleyan still led all scorers with 21 points.
The atmosphere in the second half ramped up considerably also as the hometown Mustangs brought an extremely large contingency to the Tyson Events Center for the semi-final game and the team fed off them as they hit they 10 minute mark in the game. However at that point the Bobcats were still going toe to toe and actually regained their lead at 12 points just under the nine minute mark.
With four minutes left in the game Morning side was still being the proverbial thorn in Indiana Wesleyan’s backside as the Mustangs had clawed their way back into the game only down eight 59-51.
After the ball rolled out of bounds on the ensuing Bobcat possession McManaman of Morningside hit a three-pointer pulling the Mustangs within five at the 3:11 mark. Another Turnover by Indiana Wesleyan this time a shot clock violation only continued to give the Mustangs more and more opportunities.
A charge at the 2:12 mark on Morningside fired up the crowed. And after a missed basket head coach Steve Brooks called another timeout to try and stem the bleeding being caused by the Bobcat’s errors. With forty four seconds left in the game the Mustangs scored a quick two to pull within three points before Emma Stahl made a free throw for the bobcats extending the lead back to four. The second shot was missed and rebounded by Morningside but was turned over on the ensuing possession.
In the end it was the Bobcats who came away with the victory by a score of 65-64. This marks the first time in five years that no team from the Great Plains Athletic Conference has played for the title. Indiana Wesleyan will play Davenport University of Michigan tomorrow night at six o’clock for the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Title.