BY: KIRSTEN GILLILAND
(1) Saint Francis (Ill.) vs. (3) Eastern Oregon
The University of Saint Francis Fighting Saints defeated the Eastern Oregon Mountaineers 51-48 Saturday, March 11 in the quarter finals of the 2017 NAIA Div. II Women’s Basketball National Championship. This is the first time in program history the team will be advancing to the semifinals and the second time appearing at the tournament, with 2013 being their last.
The Mountaineers led the way the first two quarters, ending the half 31-23. Ashley Knight was the leading scorer for the Mountaineers, ending the game with 21 points. Saint Francis was able to catch up in the third and ended the quarter just one point behind 40-39. The rest of the game was close, as both teams were within five points of each other the whole fourth quarter. Charnelle Reed led the Fighting Saints to a victory in the end with a total of 16 points.
“Eastern Oregon has so many threats scoring-wise, and they showed that in the first half…so we made some adjustments at halftime…We did a much better job in the second half just of containing them, containing their primary scorers,” said Head Coach Samantha Smith.
As the number one ranked team in the nation, Saint Francis is the team to beat. Reed addressed the target on their backs and how it will affect their game.
“We’ve said all season that we are just going to face the target that we have on our backs, know that we’re going to get everyone’s best and give our best as well. We can’t underestimate anyone right now,” Reed said.
Eastern Oregon Head Coach Anji Weisennfluh is proud of her team, even if they didn’t get the outcome at the end that they wanted.
“I’m really proud of my girls. They fought hard,” said Anji Weisennfluh, head coach of Eastern Oregon. “We came out and played our, what we wanted to do in the first quarter, and then they (Saint Francis) stepped up their pressure, and I give them credit…They’re not the number one ranked team in the country for nothing. They can defend, and they know how to win games.”
(1) Saint Francis (Ill.) will play Monday, March 13 in the semifinals against the winner of the Marian vs. Southeastern game. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m., and it will be live on ESPN 3.
“We’re just really excited. I think the girls are just excited to be here obviously and be a final four team. Being the last four standing is obviously a huge accomplishment, not our final goal, but we’ll see how Monday night goes,” said Smith.