Great Defense Not Enough as Statesmen Fall in Opening Round
Billings, Mont.–The William Penn women’s basketball team sought another extension to their history-making season, but were denied by Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) in a 59-45 opening-round loss at the NAIA Division I National Championships Thursday.
Making the program’s first postseason appearance since 1988, the #8-seeded Statesmen (18-14) gave the top-seeded Warriors (32-1) all they could handle in the Duer bracket on the defensive end, but failed to connect on enough of their own buckets to advance to the second round. When the dust settled, WPU held L-CS well below its season average at just 38.6% from the field, but hit only 25.8% of its own tries.
The squads exchanged three-pointers to start the contest and then the Warriors went on a quick 7-1 run to lead 10-4. William Penn weathered the mini storm and answered right back to eventually tie the contest 14-14 after the first quarter.
The Statesmen continued to prove intimidation was not going to be a factor as they claimed a pair of three point leads, going up 23-20 with 6:36 remaining until halftime. Unfortunately, Lewis-Clark State leaned on its experience and closed strong to lead 38-29 at halftime.
WPU was still very alive in the matchup at that point, but suffered through another lapse at the start of third, falling behind 46-29 with 6:49 to go in the period. The navy and gold were able to regroup and cut the deficit by four points to 53-40 entering the last period.
The lower seed came up with two more points to make it 53-42, but then both sides were hit by an extremely dry spell as no points were recorded over the next 4:21. Two additional points were posted by Vashti Nwagbaraocha (So., Milwaukee, Wis., Exercise Science) to get the Statesmen within single digits at 53-44 with 4:53 left on the clock, but that was the closest William Penn could get.
William Penn was definitely able to hold its head high for its defensive effort as the Warriors’ 59 points were just two higher than their season low. L-CS’s field-goal percentage mark was also its second-worst of the campaign.
Nwagbaraocha guided WPU with 10 points, but unfortunately was the only member of Statesmen Nation to reach double figures.
Briana McRae (Sr., Racine, Wis., Information Technology) came up big off the bench, tallying six points and four rebounds in less than seven minutes. The Statesmen countered their poor shooting with an incredible rebounding performance. WPU owned the glass at 49-39, including 18 offensive boards that were converted into a 15-3 mark in second-chance points.
The trio of Keshunda Williams (Fr., Chicago, Ill., Business Management), JeAnn Hiraldo (Jr., Frisco, Texas, Industrial Technology), and Kate Ylitalo (Fr., Maple Plain, Minn., Biology) added five points each.
Alyssa Phillips (Sr., Gurnee, Ill., Communications) was limited to only three points, but guided the rebounders with 11 (five offensive); she also blocked two shots Thursday. Asia Roper (Sr., Aurora, Colo., Psychology) stole a pair of passes in the setback.
“I am so proud of our players for everything they accomplished this year,” Scott said. “We did so many great things and it ended with an incredible trip to nationals. We are sad to have the season end, but are so happy to have made history.”
“I want to thank all of our players, especially the seniors, for all of their efforts day in and day out,” Scott said.
The loss ends the collegiate careers of McRae, Phillips, Roper, Jessica Warren (Sr., Park Forest, Ill., Physical Education), ShaVonn Watkins (Sr., Peoria, Ill., Physical Education), and GeLina Webb (Sr., Crete, Ill., Software Engineering).