Sam Thiel/ Winonan
There may be an ‘I’ in ‘Warriors’, but there was no ‘I’ in Friday’s game against No. 16 Wayne State as the Winona State women’s basketball team used a team effort in a 69-56 victory in McCown Gymnasium.
Tara Roelofs led the way for the Warriors, missing just one three-pointer (5-of-6) to score 19 points.
The game pitted the best home team against the best road team in the NSIC conference. Winona State was 12-0 in McCown, with nine of those wins coming against conference foes. Wayne State, who claimed the NSIC South Division title thanks to a Minnesota State loss, had just one road loss all year on Dec. 6 against Mankato.
Coming into Friday the Wildcats were riding a 14-game win streak, with their last loss coming against Augustana 68-60 on Dec. 20, 2014. The streak vaulted Wayne State to No. 3 in the NCAA Division II Central Region Rankings.
Both teams would use runs throughout the first half. After the Wildcats broke open the scoring with the first basket, Winona State used an 11-0 run over the next 4:23, cemented by consecutive baskets by Jenny Weiland to jump-start the Warriors to an 11-2 advantage.
The Wildcats responded with an 11-1 run to post a 14-12 lead after a pair of free throws by Paige Ballinger with 8:43 remaining in the opening half. Roelofs would answer back with a triple of her own on the ensuing possession to reclaim the lead for the Warriors.
The trey by Roelofs would ignite another Warrior run, this one a 13-2 stretch over the next four minutes that was highlighted by two baskets by Weiland and a Nagle triple to increase Winona State’s advantage to 25-16. Wayne State would cut the deficit to 25-23 with a Jordan Spencer jumper with just 2:52 left in the half. The Warriors used a 10-2 run to end the first half.
Roelofs sunk a pair of triples during the stretch, with the latter coming with just three seconds remaining to give Winona State a 35-25 lead heading into the locker rooms.
Roelofs was the Warriors’ leading scorer in the first 20 minutes of action with 11 points, going 4-for-5 from the field including a perfect 3-of-3 from the three-point line. Weiland chipped in nine points coming from the bench.
The Warriors began the second half with an 11-3 run in 4:24. Roelofs connected on two more triples and Nagle topped off the run with a three-pointer of her own to give Winona State a 46-28 lead with 15:36 remaining.
Wayne State would not go away, however, as the Wildcats compiled a series of small runs to cut the deficit. A 6-0 run cut the lead 46-35 with 13:13 left and another 6-0 run thanks to consecutive triples to make a six-point game, 52-46, with a little over nine minutes left.
Winona State increased their advantage to double-digits once again with an Alexis Foley layup and a pair of Hannah McGlone free throws to make the score 56-46.
The Wildcats would not be denied, though, as they used a third 6-0 run to cut the deficit to four, 56-52, with less than four minutes left.
With 2:12 left, Nagle nailed a triple from the corner with the defender’s hand in her face to avoid the shot clock, giving the Warriors a 59-52 advantage.
As Foley corralled a rebound Winona State was fouled immediately, giving the Warriors the opportunity to ice the game and push their lead 63-54 with 1:14 to go.
A quick basket by the Wildcats made it 63-56, but Roelofs hit Kayla Timmerman on a layup to make it 65-56 with just 54 ticks left on the game clock.
The Warriors would get two stops on the defensive end in the final 54 seconds before Nagle cemented the game with four free throws in a row on consecutive possessions to give Winona State the 69-56 upset.
“We were not pressured or bothered by Wayne State’s zone defense and we had good patience and did a good job of attacking the high post area,” head coach Scott Ballard said. “We also scored often and rebounded well to keep them from having transition opportunities.”
The Warriors had an even scoring night with four players reaching double figures. Nagle recorded 15 including 6-of-6 from the free throw line and four steals. McGlone netted her first double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Weiland led the scoring for the bench with 11 points.
They say all good things must come to an end, and the Winona State women’s basketball team said goodbye to its perfect home record, dropping its regular-season finale to Augustana 83-65 Saturday in McCown Gym.
The Warriors suffered 15 turnovers in the first half. The full-court press of the Vikings payed off as they outscored the Warriors 28-2 in the points off turnovers category in the opening half. Augustana took 16 more attempts than Winona State, finishing 19-of-37 (51.4 percent) while the Warriors went just 9-of-21 from the field (42.9 percent).
The deficit would have been even greater for the Warriors had they not made it to the free throw line 15 times thanks to 11 Viking fouls. Winona State hit 11 of those 15 attempts as opposed to only three for Augustana.
Roelofs started the scoring for Winona State with two baskets to give the Warriors a 6-4 lead. The Vikings would answer with a 10-0 run that included a technical foul on Timmerman where the Vikings Shaunteva Ashley – who was the game’s leading scorer at 30 points – hit a string of free throws to give Augustana a 21-13 advantage with 11:33 to go in the opening period.
The Vikings increased their run 18-3 and made the score 29-15 with 9:41 left, during which Augustana hit 12 shots and Winona State attempted 12 shots.
“Augustana is an up-tempo team that presses all the time after a score or miss and try to speed you up and play uncomfortable,” Ballard added. “We handled them fine the first ten minutes of the game until they opened up a ten point lead and then we lost our patience and tried to play faster which led to poor decisions, more turnovers and transition points for them.”
By halftime the Vikings regained a 19-point lead, 48-29.
Coming out of the locker room, the Warriors used 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 11, and a layup by Timmerman made the score 49-39 with 16:10 left.
Consecutive triples by the Vikings put them right back at 16, and the lead would bounce between 14 and 18 points the rest of the way.
Timmerman led Winona State with 16 points while Tara Roelofs posted 11, including the lone triple for Winona State. McGlone chipped in 10 points as well as Connor Nagle, who led the rebounding department with seven.
Winona State (19-7 overall, 15-7 NSIC) notched the No. 3 south seed in the NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament and will face the north No. 6 seed in the University of Mary Wednesday at 7 p.m. in McCown Gym.
Winona State defeated University of Mary Jan. 16 at home in regular season play.
Ballard said, “We had a close game 70-65 with them the first time, but we are glad we get to play at home and hope our students and community will come out and support our team and their efforts.”