Wildcat women complete 2-0 weekend at home

Austin Svehla, Assistant Sports Editor

The Wayne State women’s basketball team improved their overall record to 11-5 this season (6-4 NSIC) with victories over Winona State on Friday and Upper Iowa on Saturday at Rice Auditorium. WSC is now tied for third in the NSIC South Division and is currently riding a three-game winning streak.

On Friday against Winona State, it was a close battle throughout, as the Wildcats fended off two early five-point deficits (9-4, 11-6) to close within two at 15-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The ’Cats trailed by as many as six in the second quarter before an 11-5 run knotted the game at 26-26. Sophomore Erin Norling converted a steal and a layup at the end of the first half to give the Wildcats a narrow 30-29 advantage.

After taking a three-point advantage twice early in the third quarter, the Wildcats quickly surrendered their lead, as the Warriors managed to chip away, taking a 49-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“I thought we had a pretty good defensive game against Winona,” head coach Brent Pollari said. “They run a lot of good action, and I thought we did a pretty good job of communicating.”
From there, the Wildcats burst for nine straight points to start the fourth, with the go-ahead shot coming from senior Andrea Larson on a three-pointer with 7:14 remaining. Winona State answered with a 7-0 run to take a 56-52 lead with just under three minutes to play in the game. Larson hit another three to bring WSC within a point, but a Warrior layup with 2:12 left made it a 58-55 Warrior advantage. Sophomore Brittany Bongartz converted a clutch basket with just under two minutes remaining to bring the Wildcats back within one, 58-57. Both teams failed to score on their next two possessions, but Norling grabbed an offensive rebound off a Halley Busse miss and converted the put back to give the Wildcats a 59-58 lead with 19.4 seconds remaining. WSC fended off the Warriors on their last possession to hold on for the 59-58 victory and improve their record to 10-5.

“I think it kind of sparks you when you get a win in a game like that,” Pollari said. “It was kind of fun watching the film and seeing the crowd and our players react at the end of the game. I think that gave us a little energy going into that Upper Iowa game.”

Wayne State shot 43.1 percent from the field, led by four players with double digits. Larson had 13 points, Bongartz and Busse each had 11, and Norling had 10.

Friday’s victory certainly provided the energy on Saturday afternoon that Pollari was looking for in a 99-74 victory over the Upper Iowa Peacocks.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 16-8 lead early in the first quarter and never looked back. Norling paced WSC early with seven first-quarter points to help the ’Cats to a 25-15 advantage at the end of the first.

WSC continued their dominance early in the second, starting the quarter on a 12-3 run to extend their lead to 37-18. The Wildcats outscored the Peacocks 25-15 again in the second to take a 50-30 lead into the half.

“We got a lot of good looks from our action,” Pollari said. “We’re a pretty good offensive team when we move the basketball.”

Freshman Kylie Hammer scored eight straight points in the third quarter to help the Wildcats to a 61-39 lead. Wayne State put up 27 points in the third, their third highest scoring quarter of the season, to take a 77-55 advantage into the final frame.

The Wildcats continued their high-flying scoring into the fourth quarter, resulting in their highest-scoring game of the season with 99 points. This was all thanks to the team hitting a 47.1 percent shooting mark from the field, also their highest mark of the season.

“One of the nice things about this team is we have a lot of people that can score so we don’t just have to have one person do the bulk of it,” Pollari said. “It’s nice to have so many people that can step up and score.”

Busse led the Wildcats with 18 points on the afternoon while each Norling and Hammer had 17 points a piece. Sophomore Haley Vesey added 14 points and Bongartz had 11 of her own.

The Wildcats will be on the road this weekend as they visit a 14-2 MSU Moorhead team currently riding a 12-game winning streak on Friday, before traveling to Aberdeen to take on an 8-8 Northern State squad on Saturday.

“[Moorhead] are just solid all the way around,” Pollari said. “They’re well-coached, they’re a good defensive team, and they rebound the ball really well, so our rebounds and defense will be the keys to the game.”

Tipoff on Friday in Moorhead is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Aberdeen.

Brianna Parsons
Halley Busse brings the ball down the court in Friday’s game against Winona State.