Westminster Lady Blue Jays Eliminated from NCAA Tournament
FULTON, MO -- The Westminster College Lady Blue Jays leave the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Women's Basketball Tournament after a tough loss to the Simpson College Storm. The Storm, ranked 11th in the nation, continue on to play Wisconsin-Stevens Point Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. Wisconsin-Stevens Point defeated Concordia-Moorhead Friday, 72-64.
"The game was not what we anticipated, but our team never gave up. The Storm was a solid team and they played a good game," said Coach Tracey Braden.
The Blue Jays struggled to get their first points on the board, while Simpson hit a 12-0 run to start the game. The Blue Jays grabbed a 5-0 run to bring the lead down and freshman Mackenzie Haddox (Washington, Mo. /St. Francis Borgia) drained a three to put them within nine, 13-22, with 14:11 left on the clock.
The Blue Jays struggled to stop Simpson's forward Kate Nielsen and the Storm advanced the lead to 19 points with 5:36 left in the half. The Blue Jays rallied back; sophomore Danielle Smulczenski (Springfield, Mo. /Kickapoo) hit a layup and freshman Sadie Theroff (Jefferson City, Mo. /Jefferson City) drained a three to bring the deficit back down. The Storm held the lead, and the Blue Jays headed into halftime down 35-50.
The Blue Jays shot 37 percent from the field and 46 percent from beyond the arc in the first half, but they could not control the Storm's 54 percent from the field. Senior Kenna Cornelson (Oklahoma City, Okla. /Casady) stated "our offense was exactly as we wanted. We executed as a team and never gave up, despite the scoreboard."
The Storm headed into the second half with a 21-3 run to grab a 35 point lead, and senior Talisha Washington (Fulton, Mo. /Fulton) hit a layup to end the Storm's run. The Blue Jays fought and held the deficit until the end of the game, losing 58-91.
The Blue Jays shot 37 percent from the field and shot 40 percent and went 10-25 from the three-point line. Senior Hannah Kloster (Springfield, Mo. /Parkview) and Theroff led the Blue Jays with 12 points apiece. Cornelson grabbed six defensive rebounds for the Blue Jays, while also blocking two shots and dishing in two assists.
When commenting on their careers as Blue Jays, seniors Kloster and Cornelson stated they would not have traded it for the world and they are proud to have called themselves Blue Jays. "We are a family. On the court, during practice, and even outside of the gym, we are always there for each other," said Cornelson. Kloster mentioned the Lady Blue Jays' program when she became a freshman. "It was on the rise when I came in, and we are continuing to take steps in the right direction. We have attended the Tournament for the second year and I can only see us getting better from here," states Kloster.
The Blue Jays head home, ending their season with a 17-11 record. This was the second NCAA Tournament appearance for the Blue Jays after winning the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Tournament back-to-back. They have won the SLIAC conference play three years in a row now. The Blue Jays will graduate five seniors, but will be looking to attend the NCAA Tournament again next year!