Monday, March 15, 2010

IWU women's basketball team's run comes to an end

Mia Smith's teams went an incredible 58-3 over the last two seasons. Unfortunately, a couple uncharacteristic performances in the NCAA Tournament prevented either squad from earning a Final Four berth.

While it was a loss to Washington University in last year's Elite Eight that left the Titans without a banner, it was a Sweet Sixteen loss to a very talented Wisconsin-Stevens Point team (easily the best team I saw them play this year) that ended the 2009-2010 season.

It was a revenge game for the Pointers, both for a loss earlier this season, and for a loss in last year's Sweet Sixteen. The Titans led 50-39 early in the second half, but the Pointers fought back and it was a close game for the last 13 minutes. Stevens Point built a five-point lead late, but two consecutive old-fashioned three-point plays by the Titans--both by Stacey Arlis--quickly turned the deficit into a one-point lead with four minutes left to play.

Christina Solari made a layup to put the Titans up by one with 32 seconds remaining, and had a one-and-one with 13 seconds left after a miss by the Pointers. The front-end free throw missed left, and the Pointers grabbed the rebound. The Titans forced a miss, but Ashley Averkamp--who led her team with 20 points--snagged the board and put it back up and in to give Stevens Point a 77-76 lead with just two seconds remaining. A last-ditch shot attempt from nearly half court fell short, and the Pointers moved on to face Hope in the Elite Eight.

The 77 points were the third-most allowed by the Titans this season: they defeated Olivet Nazarene 108-83 in late November, and beat Stevens Point 84-80 in their very next game. Four Pointers were in double-figures on Friday, and the Titans were outrebounded 42-36.

Christina Solari led the team with 17 points, and her sister Karen, Olivia Lett, Nikki Preston and Stacey Arlis all joined her in double-figures. If was a tough shooting night for Nikki--she was 4-for-12 and 0-for-3 from behind the arc. Overall, the Titans shot well at nearly 51 percent, but 19 turnovers resulted in them taking six fewer shots and four fewer threes than their opponents.

Though there's no doubt the Titans would have loved to have surpassed the success they had last season, there's absolutely nothing wrong with another conference title, a 28-2 showing overall, and the team's second-ever appearance in the Sectional round of the NCAA tournament. While the nature of Friday's loss makes it a tough one to stomach, Mia Smith, seniors Christina Solari and Carrie Williams, and every other player on the Titans should be extremely proud of yet another incredible season. The 1,700 fans at the Shirk Center on Friday (save the decent number of Pointers supporters) were treated to a phenomenal year on the heels of a record-shattering 2008-2009 season, and they'll no doubt be back for more about eight short months from now.

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