Women’s basketball clinches home playoff game

Women’s basketball clinches home playoff game

Lauren Lott, Sports Reporter

Winona State University women’s basketball team split their conference away games with a loss against University of Sioux Falls on Friday, Feb. 13 and a win against Southwest Minnesota State University on Saturday, Feb. 16.

The Warriors suffered a tough loss against Sioux Falls Friday falling 68-70, as they were unable to get a shot off in the last 10 seconds of the game.

At this point in the season, there is not a lot that separates these two teams statistically, they had fairly identical records going into this game, which showed in the back and forth runs that made this game so close in score.

This was a game of runs as each team would trade off going hot and cold on shooting. Winona State started strong on defense, making it hard for the Cougars to do anything in the interior. The Warriors being a solid half court defensive team, worked to keep it a half-court game. They did this well in the first quarter ans also executed on the offensive end, with 7-11 of their first shots compared to Sioux Falls’ 2-13. 

The Warriors were keeping the Cougars out of the paint, forcing them to shoot three’s, an area where they were only three for eight in the first quarter, as the Warriors went on an 11-0 run getting them ahead by four at the end of the quarter.  

The tide started to turn in the second quarter, as Sioux Falls gained steam and started to get stronger on defense. The Warriors went multiple minutes without scoring at the beginning of the quarter, and only scored 10 points in the first seven minutes of the quarter.

The Cougars started to seize control of the game as they went on a 13-3 run, but the Warriors were able to get back into it with an 14-0 run of their own to go into halftime up by eight. At the half, the Warriors were shooting 50 percent on field goals and three-point shots, while the Cougars were only shooting 29 percent.

The Cougars continued to fight to get back from their deficit at the beginning of the third quarter, shooting at almost 68 percent. They made 11-16 shots in this quarter compared to their 10-34 in the entire first half.

“Our half-court defense was good till they started slipping high ball screens in their five out offense,” head coach Scott Ballard said.

This was the lowest scoring quarter for Winona State, getting only 13 points compared to Sioux Falls’ 28, and only making six of 15 shots.

The Warriors went about four minutes at the end of the quarter without making any shots, having a lot of opportunities at the rim, but were unable to convert them into the points.

At the start of the fourth quarter Winona State switched to zone defense to try to contain Sioux Falls and get some good shooting opportunities. This led to a 14-0 run by the Warriors that got them back into the action with a score of 55-56.

“We went zone in the fourth quarter, so they couldn’t run that option anymore and then they struggled to score and we got back in the game,” Ballard said.

The game came down to the last shot with the score of 68-70, with 10 seconds on the clock and Winona State with the ball. The Warriors tried to get a good look for a shot but were unable to and missed a tough contested shot at the end.

“We won three quarters in this game but had a bad third quarter where we didn’t score the last four and a half minutes,” Ballard said. “Then, they got into transition and we lost some of their shooters.  We played well for 35 minutes but stopped making shots for half of the third quarter which allowed them to get the lead.  However, we finished strong and gave ourselves a chance with 10 seconds remaining but didn’t get a good look.”

Although the Warriors were unable to come away with the win, they were playing one of the toughest defenses in the league and held their own only having eight turnovers and forcing nine on Sioux Falls.

Senior Rachel Novotny leads the NSIC in field goal percentage at 60.9 percent. She was playing well above her average during this game coming away with 19 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, marking her fourth double-double of the year.   

Saturday, the Warriors bounced back to win a crucial conference game against Southwest Minnesota State University, 79-68.

Winona State started off slow in the first quarter with the Mustangs going on an 8-0 run to open the game. From there, the Warriors started to heat up on offense especially with eight points from junior Gabie Doud. They were unable to get ahead in the first quarter ending it behind 13-19.

The Warriors tried to stay in the game in the second quarter but were still unable to get ahead going into halftime with a score of 32-39. The Mustangs were getting a lot of three-point shots off in the first half, shooting 6-15 from the arc.

“In Saturday’s game, we didn’t have enough energy on defense to start the game and we had some foul trouble the first half which slowed us down on offense some,” Ballard said.

The tide started to turn in the third quarter of the game as the Warriors outscored the Mustangs 18-16. Winona State was only down by five going into the final quarter of the game.

“We stayed close and made some halftime adjustments on defense which helped us run them off the three-point line and contain their dribble drive action,” Ballard said.

The Warriors exploded in the fourth quarter, starting it off with 12 unanswered points to put them in the lead for the rest of the contest. Novotny scored the first six points, while sophomore Emily Kieck hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to put Winona State up 62-55.

With 4:14 left in the game, Kieck scored her third three-pointer in four minutes to put the Warriors ahead by 10. She had career-best 26 points during the game, scoring 20 of them in the second half, and a season-high seven rebounds.

The Warriors outs outscored the Mustangs 29-13 in the final quarter of the game.

“When we started getting consecutive stops on defense, we were able to get into transition and create driving opportunities which lead to some easy scores and energized our team for the fourth quarter explosion offensively,” Ballard said.

Winona State also utilized the bench all weekend but were able to get them more scoring opportunities on Saturday ending with 25 points off the bench. Eighteen of those points were from Doud, as she went 7-of-10 shooting on the night.

Novotny recorded her second double-double of the weekend and fifth of the year with 16 points and 10 rebounds against the Mustangs.

“I like how well we took care of the ball in both games averaging only eight turnovers and we shot well from the three-point arc and the free throw line,” Coach Ballard said. “We had good balance and received good minutes from our bench.”

This win against Southwest Minnesota State University clinched a home playoff game for Winona State.

“It was nice to clinch a home playoff game with our win at Southwest on Saturday before playing two good teams at home this weekend.” Ballard said. “Our goal is to continue to get better each week and build momentum going into the NSIC tournament that begins next week.”

This weekend, Winona State will face Concordia University, St. Paul on Friday, Feb. 22 at 5:30 P.M. and Minnesota State University-Mankato on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 3:30 P.M. on their home court for their last two regular season conference games.

After those two games, Winona State will host the first playoff game in the NSIC tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7 P.M.