Story: Austin Druse
Photos: Jacilyn Bruns
Video: Austin Remm
As the old saying goes, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” The No. 3 Marian University Knights nearly blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter when the Owls of Oregon Tech hustled their way back to within four with 1:20 left in the game. After and and-one bucket from Tess Armstrong, the Owls trailed 71-66 with 2.2 seconds left, however she missed the free throw. Marian’s Jenna Sullivan grabbed the rebound, the last of her game-high 10, and hit one of two free-throws to ice the game, 72-66.
“I think it was a little bit of complacency, maybe a little bit of nerves coming down the stretch when they started pressin’ us,” Marian head coach Katie Gearalds said. “We lost our heads a little bit defensively.”
This afternoon’s contest started slow, as neither team had scored until the 8:24 mark in the first quarter. However, once Marian guard Jessica Almeida hit a three from the right wing, both teams picked up the pace of play. After that shot, Marian sparked an 11-2 run that spanned one minute and 15 seconds and forced an Oregon Tech timeout with 6:39 left in the first quarter. Almeida finished with eight points on 3-11 from the floor.
Oregon Tech didn’t execute through three quarters, but turnovers and missed lay-ups by the Knights provided an opportunity for the Owls to get back into the game, and cut it to a six-point ball game with 5:22 left. Marian did not score until the 4:39 mark in the fourth quarter when Lakan Hasser-Smith hit a three from the right wing.
“We went to the 2-2-1 to kind of change tempo of the game, got a couple turnovers and some transition baskets, got a little momentum,” Oregon Tech head coach Scott Meredith said.
The Owls already found themselves in a similar situation in last night’s upset over the University of Jamestown, a game in which the Owls came back from a 13-point deficit. “We have been in that situation before, my girls just didn’t have any quit,” Meredith said. The win over Jamestown was the first at the national championship for the Owls.
Marian jumped all over Oregon Tech initially with a 2-3 zone that forced the Owls to commit 14 turnovers in the first half, and 21 in the game. However, the strong play of Morgan Roberts kept the Owls in it through two quarters. Roberts scored eight points o 4-5 shooting from the field in the first half, along with seven rebounds.
Anastacia Kirby had a fine first half for Marian. She tallied 10 points, but didn’t miss a shot. Roberts shot 3-3 from the field, 2-2 from 3-point range and 2-2 from the free-throw line through one half of play. Her two 3-pointers came on back-to-back possessions early in the second quarter. Hasser-Smith tallied a game-high 19 points for the Knights, 13 of which came in the second half.
With the victory, Marian University grabs a spot in the quarterfinals of the championship and will face the winner of No. 1 Morningside and No. 4 Cardinal Stritch on Saturday at 3:00 p.m.
“We have made it a point to come out here and make some noise and play as long as possible,” Gearalds said.
Round 1, Marian (Ind.): No. 3 Marian (Ind.) – 76 vs. No. 6 Milligan (Tenn.) – 59
Marian handles Milligan, hopes to avenge last season’s early exit
Round 1, Oregon Tech: No. 7 Oregon Tech – 71 vs. No. 8 Tennessee Wesleyan – 58
No. 7 seed Oregon Tech shocks No. 2 seed Jamestown 71-64