Story: Austin Druse
Photos: Jacilyn Bruns
Video: Austin Penfield
The momentum of beating the No. 1 overall seed carried over for the Marian Knights in the first quarter. Marian blew the doors off in just the first six minutes with a 20-6 run. Marian went on an additional 20-6 run to open the second quarter as well.
“I think we were 20-28 in the first half from the field, and I don’t know that we’ve ever shot it that well. I think that’s just a product of our defense leading into our offense,” Marian head coach Katie Gearalds said.
Laken Hasser-Smith dropped eight first-quarter points, and 17 in the first half. Hasser-Smith shot a very efficient 8 of 10 from the floor, and dropped four dimes through 20 minutes of play. She would go on to finish with a game-high 21 points and a game-high five assists.
“Ya know, I was just thinkin’, ‘Hey, we have to stay confident as a team. Be ready to shoot when you’re open,’” Hasser-Smith said. “We knew this team was gonna be good and guard us tight and I think we just did a really good job at finding each other when we were open and it made it easy.”
What really opened up the game for Hasser-Smith was her teammates’ ability to knock down shots early. Marian shot 71 percent in the first half on 20 of 28 shooting, and picked up 15 points from downtown, five makes on nine attempts. Anastacia Kirby tallied a 14 points in the first on 5 of 5 from the floor and 2 of 2 from the 3-point line, providing a 1a. and 1b. attack for the Knights. Kirby finished with 14 points and six boards.
“They got shooters, they got post players that step out and shoot. . . got wings that are really good at puttin’ the ball on the floor and they got a couple of point guards who are really good,” Mount Marty head coach Tom Schlimgen said.
Everything that Kirby provided in the first half for the Knights was extended by Kellie Kirkhoff in the second half. Kirkhoff scored nine of her 15 points in the third quarter and knocked down 6 of 10 shots.
“I think they did a great job of stepping up. They hit big shots for us, that’s what we need from them,” Hasser-Smith said.
Mount Marty’s Alex Kneeland struggled to hit shots from anywhere in the first half, especially the first quarter. She initially missed three of her first four shots, and finished the first half with just eight points on 3 of 10 from the field and 0 of 5 from beyond the arc. She would go on to finish with a team-high 14 points on just 6 of 19 shooting.
The Knights will make their first appearance in the national final in school history, and will face the winner of No.1 Southern Oregon University (32-1) and conference-foe Goshen College (Ind.) (27-8). Tipoff for the championship is set for Tuesday, March 15, at 7:00 p.m. central time, and will be broadcast via livestream on ESPN3.
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 2, Marian (Ind.): No. 3 Marian (Ind.) – 72 vs. No. 7 Oregon Tech – 66
Marian barely holds off Oregon Tech, advances to quarter-finals
Quarterfinals, Marian (Ind.): No. 3 Marian (Ind.) – 76 vs. No. 1 Morningside (Iowa) – 69
No. 1 Morningside stunned by Marian
Round 1, Mount Marty: No. 3 Mount Marty (S.D.) – 73 vs. No. 6 Purdue Calumet (Ind.) – 69
Kneeland’s tournament-high 34 points lifts Mount Marty over PCU
Round 2, Mount Marty: No. 3 Mount Marty (S.D.) – 74 vs. No. 2 College of the Ozarks (Mo.) – 67
2nd half comeback propels Mount Marty to quarterfinals
Quarterfinals, Mount Marty: No. 3 Mount Marty (S.D.) – 98 vs. No. 1 Olivet Nazarene – 76
Upstart Mount Marty upsets Olivet Nazarene, moves on to semifinals