Coming off a tough loss in the opening round of the NCCAA DI Women’s Basketball National Championship Tournament, the Lady Cats were challenged with a necessary reset to come back and play in the consolation round. Now looking to finish out the season on a winning note, the Lady Cats struggles continued in the opening quarter on Thursday.
The University of Northwest from St. Paul Minnesota stepped on the court ready to play and the Lady Cats shooting woes continued. Annie Noah and Jordan Wersinger gave the Lady Cats the early 4-0 lead and Kayley Frank answered an Eagles bucket to make it 6-2. The Lady Cat offense then went in the freezer and an Annie Noah basket as time expired sent the Lady Cats into the first break trailing 17-8.
Shots were not falling for the Lady Cats and the Eagles capitalized in the first 10 minutes. The second quarter needed a shift in momentum, or the Lady Cats were going to be in a hole they couldn’t climb out of. The Eagles drained a three to open the scoring in the quarter and things were not looking good. Trailing 20-8, the needed spark came off the hand of Kyra Hardesty for a deep three. A three by Katie Mayes followed, and Hardesty busted another three to cap a 9-2 run. The run cut the deficit to 22-17 and the Lady Cats were back in contention. Neither team would score again until the 4:49 mark and an Eagle bucket inside. Another Eagle bucket was answered by a Wersinger two and a Hardesty three and the gap was cut to two, 26-24. Lady Cat fans felt if they could just take the lead, they would be able to finish out the game on top. The Eagles held off the Lady Cat charge in the first half, connecting on a pair of free throws to take a 28-24 lead into the intermission.
The third quarter started slow as both teams struggled to find the bottom of the net. The Eagles grabbed the momentum at the 7:42 mark with a traditional three-point play. Trailing 31-24, the Lady Cats needed to get the offense going again. Annie Noah and Kayley Frank scored back to back baskets to cut the gap to 31-28 and the teams began to trade baskets. A Jordan Wersinger basket cut the deficit to 35-34 with 4:29 left in the third, and another Wersinger two gave the Lady Cats their first lead of the game, with 4:03 remaining. The Eagles battled back to a 37-37 tie at the 2:36 mark but the Lady Cats held off the challenge and took a 43-41 lead into the final break.
The final frame was a tug of war with neither team wanting to give up ground. The Lady Cats continued to hold the Eagles at bay and maintained a slim 47-45 advantage with 4:03 left to play. A Kyra Hardesty three, followed by baskets by Blythe Benefield and Annie Noah bumped the lead to 54-45. The late push had the Lady Cats in control. The Eagles were determined to fight back, but eight straight free throws by Wersinger, Frank, and Hardesty maintained the advantage and sealed the 62-53 win as time expired.
Wersinger, Hardesty, and Noah posted double figures for the Lady Cats with 17, 16, and 12 respectively. Noah also pulled down 14 rebounds to put another double-double in the books. Katie Mayes chipped in seven points, Kayley Frank contributed six, and Blythe Benefield tacked on four.
The Lady Cats will be back in action on Friday at 6:00 PM Central Time as they face the host, Grace College Lancers.