Second-Half Rally Falls Short as Season Ends at Mount Mercy
Cedar Rapids–Frigid shooting prevented the Statesmen women’s basketball team from extending its season as it fell 69-65 to #3 seed Mount Mercy in a Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament Semifinal game Saturday.
#6 seed William Penn (12-18) connected on only 27.0% of its field goals, but still made things interesting as it sought a trip to the tourney’s championship game for the first time since 2011. The Statesmen were in the semifinals for the fourth year in a row.
The Mustangs, who led from start to finish, will now face top-seed and #13 St. Ambrose in Monday’s night title game (7 p.m. in Davenport). It was tough going for the visitors in the first 20 minutes as they were outshot 46.2%-16.7% (five made shots) to trail 34-19 at intermission.
WPU began to battle back immediately after the break with a 14-3 run to make it 37-31 just 4:10 into the second period. MMU answered with a run of its own to again lead by 15 points. The Statesmen had plenty of fight left, though, narrowing the deficit to five points four times entering the final minute of play.
The squad got it down to four points with 15 seconds remaining on a free throw by Dani Stahle (Sr., South Weber, Utah, History/Government & Psychology), but the final three points were tallied by the Mustangs. MMU held a final shooting tally of 42.7%-27.0%. Stahle scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half.
William Penn’s rally was largely due to a 26-for-34 performance at the free-throw line (MMU was 20-for-35). The Statesmen were also stronger in ball protection with ten turnovers, compared to 16 by the hosts. That led to a 12-3 scoring edge in points off turnovers for WPU.
The navy and gold controlled the boards with a 45-41 margin, including an 18-8 mark on the offensive end. That unfortunately did not translate into a positive for the visitors as MMU still outscored WPU 12-10 in second-chance points.
Jessie Kreuser (Jr., Mendota Heights, Minn., Undecided) topped the Statesmen with her first double-double of the year with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The junior matched Stahle with 12 second-half points.
Susan Smith (Sr., Eugene, Ore., Biology) was also in double figures with 12 points, while Megan Evangelista (Sr., Chanhassen, Minn., Biology) added eight. Alyssa Phillips (Fr., Gurnee, Ill., Communications) had just four points, but paced her team with two assists, while Rachael Tozier (Mesa, Ariz., Business Management) helped WPU’s rebounding effort with eight caroms.
The loss ends the collegiate playing careers of Evangelista, Makenzie Ficek (Eugene, Ore., Sociology), Brittany May (Sr., Gladstone, Ore., Biology), Lauren McKinnis (Chicago, Ill., Sociology), Smith, Stahle, and Tozier.
“We had a tough start to our day and really could not make a stop in the first half,” Head Coach Mike Brown said. “We were a little better in the second half, but missed a large amount of two-foot shots all night. In the end, we just could not get things going and Mount Mercy was the better team.”
“I really want to send a big thank you to all the seniors for their contributions throughout the year and in their previous years with us,” Brown added. “They left it all on the floor tonight and I am sure when they look back they will be proud.”