Westminster Falls in Opening Rounds of NCAA DIII Tourney
FULTON, MO -- Westminster College entered its first NCAA Division III women's national tournament as an underdog, but the Blue Jays battled #4 DePauw University to the end Friday before closing out the best season in school history with a 66-46 loss. While the men grabbed the early lead in Friday's NCAA Division III men's national tournament first-round game, the Blue Jays could not hold off #1 and host Hope College in dropping a 79-65 decision in front of a crowd of 3475.
Westminster (22-5) fell behind by 11 points at 21-11, but didn't fold and used a 15-6 run to trail just 27-26 at intermission.
The Blue Jays would knot the score twice in the first three minutes of the second half on a 3-pointer by sophomore Leigh Ann Lutz and a lay-up by senior Rachel Backes.
DePauw (27-1) used a 44-27 rebound advantage and 45.3 percent shooting from the field to hold off the Blue Jays and advance to Saturday's second-round meeting with Carthage College.
Backes, who was starting and playing in a school record 101st game, closed out her career with 13 points, and Lutz finished with 12 points. Senior Liz Klaffenbach played in a school-record tying 101st game and scored just three points, while senior Heather Letourneau scored two points in her career finale.
Katie Aldrich led DePauw with a game-high 19 points and pulled down a game-high seven rebounds.
The Blue Jays (17-11), who were making their third NCAA tournament appearance and their second in three years, tied the game 6-6 early and built up a 22-17 advantage.
Hope would rally, tying the score 28-28, and then used an 11-2 run to take a 41-32 lead into intermission.
Westminster cut a 17-point deficit to nine on a couple of occasions late in the game, but Hope, which held a 41-25 rebounding advantage, moved into Saturday's second-round game with Illinois Wesleyan University.
Freshman Verdis Lee tallied a team-high 19 points. Senior Kurt Kovach closed out his career scoring 15 points and grabbing a team-high seven rebounds. Sophomore Joe James added 12 points and senior Kelsey Weymuth chipped in nine points and six rebounds in his career finale. Nate Snuggerud finished with 37 points for Hope (27-1).