Sterling cruises to 21 point victory in the opening round of the NAIA national tournament
For the tenth time in the illustrious history of the Sterling College women’s basketball program, the Lady Warriors won their opening round game at the NAIA Division II national tournament with a high scoring 93-72 victory over Holy Names University (CA).
Sterling’s height advantage on the interior was evident as starting post players Ashley Kraft (25 points) and Brittany Gasper (17 points) combined for 42 total points in the Lady Warriors 27th win of the season. Starting senior point guard Jacci Tinkel added 17 and KCAC “Freshman of the Year” Cathryn Wiebe 11 to round out SC’s double digit scoring.
Sterling jumped out to a 15-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game behind strong inside play by Kraft and Gasper. But in the second five minutes of the contest Holy Names settled down and went on a 13-10 run to cut Sterling’s advantage to eight with just ten minutes remaining in the opening half.
That eight point lead would remain relatively constant during the final ten minutes of the period as both teams traded jabs on the offensive end of the floor. When the first half was complete SC maintained its eight point advantage 45-37.
Kraft and Gasper accounted for 28 of Sterling’s 45 points in the opening frame while Wiebe added 6 and Tinkel and Jannica Schultze added five points each for the Lady Warriors.
Sterling shot an impressive 50% from the floor in the first half and also connected on 11 of 13 free-throw attempts (85%).
Despite committing 11 first half turnovers, Holy Names was also able to have some success offensively shooting 46% from the field including four 3-point baskets. Raquel Hyche led Holy Names in the first half with 13 points which included 3 three-point buckets. The Hawks only attempted three free-throws in the first half.
In the second half, Sterling again started strong with a 12-7 run in the opening 4:30 of the second frame increasing its advantage to 57-44.
But during the next three minutes Sterling would extend its lead to 21 points (66-45) which was capped by a deep three-point basket from the baseline by freshman Megan Patrick. The basket completed a 9-1 run by the Lady Warriors and gave Sterling its largest lead of the game.
Holy Names would get within 16 points but never closer as Sterling cruised to a 93-72 win. Sterling shot 56% from the floor in the second half including a 4 of 7 effort (43%) from behind the three-point line. Holy Names was led in scoring by Hyche with 18 points.
Sterling would hold Holy Names to 28% shooting from the floor in the second half and outrebound the Hawks by eleven (49-38) in the victory. Sterling did commit 18 turnovers in the contest but also posted 22 team assists. Tinkel and Kraft led the Lady Warriors in that category with five assists each.
Sterling will face defending NAIA Division II national champions Northwestern College of Iowa in the next round at 7:00 PM on Friday, March 13th at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Sterling lost to the Red Raiders in the semifinals of the national tournament in 2001 when Northwestern captured its first of two national championships. The Red Raiders are coached by 15 year veteran Earl Woudstra. Woudstra is the brother of former Sterling College head men’s basketball coach Jim Woudstra and uncle of former Lady Warrior and All-America selection Meika Woudstra.
Story by Shawn Reed, Sterling College
Picture by Melissa Yarrow, Sterling College Student