Wildcat women’s basketball finishes regular season as the fifth seed in the NSIC south

Nate Bope, Staff Writer

The Wayne State College women’s basketball finished off the regular season falling short in a pair of weekend contests.  

The Wildcats finished the regular season with a record of 11-15 and a 7-15 record in conference play and have earned the five seed out of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference South division for the upcoming conference tournament. 

“As a team, it was a goal to make the conference tournament,” senior forward Logan Hughes said. “We have been working all year and now the time has come.” 

On Thursday, the Wildcats took on the Sioux Falls Cougars in Wayne. The Cougars came out hot, starting off the game with an 8-0 run in the first two and a half minutes. They strung together a 6-0 run later in the opening quarter to put the Wildcats in a 13-point hole, 19-6. The first quarter ended with the Wildcats trailing 22-10. 

The Wildcats would make efforts to cut into the Cougar lead in the second quarter, but the two sides traded baskets for much of the quarter. Each team was able to put 15 points on the board in the second quarter, so the lead remained a dozen in favor of the Cougars, 37-25. 

The third quarter was more of the same from the second quarter. The two sides would answer each other’s points totals, and we had another 12-point lead for the Cougars, 53-41, after 30 minutes of play. 

The fourth quarter saw WSC’s many efforts to try to trim the Cougar lead only resulting in the lead being blown back into double digits time and time again. With 1:30 to play, the Wildcats trailed 66-55. Then, madness occurred. The Wildcats scored five points over the next minute to cut the lead to six.  

Cougar guard Dallie Hoskinson tacked on a free throw to make the lead 67-60. Sophomore forward Maya Fitzpatrick and senior guard Lauren Zacharias combined to make two crucial three-pointers in the span of ten seconds to cut the lead to one.  

A pair of free throws by Cougar guard Lauren Sanders put the lead back to three, 69-66, with seven seconds to play. Fitzpatrick looked to inbound the basketball, but a full-court pass found nobody open. That was the game-sealing turnover, as the Cougars survived and escaped with a 70-66 win.  

Zacharias and Fitzpatrick led the way for the Wildcats. Zacharias had 16 points, while Fitzpatrick had 15. Junior guard Annie Guentzel provided a spark off the bench with 10 points of her own.  

The regular season finale pitted the Mustangs of Southwest Minnesota State against the Wildcats on Saturday. Both came out of the gates hot, as they each shot 50% or better in the first quarter. SMSU controlled most of the opening period, until an 8-0 run by the Wildcats gave WSC the lead, 20-19, at the end of the first quarter. 

The two sides continued their hot shooting into the second quarter, a quarter that saw both teams score a whopping 26 points each. The Wildcats grew their lead to begin the second frame, getting an advantage as big as five.  

But the Mustangs didn’t back down. They fought tooth and nail with the Wildcats the entire way, as the lead swayed back-and-forth. WSC retook the lead late to give them a 46-45 advantage at halftime. The Wildcats shot 11-14 from the floor, good for 78.5%, in the second quarter.  

However, this is where the hot shooting day ended for the Wildcats. The second half saw SMSU take full control, on account of the Wildcats shooting 7-24 in the second half. The Mustangs took the lead early in the third quarter and never looked back. The lead got as big as 21 points, and the Mustangs continue their own hot shooting day en route to an 85-66 win in the regular season finale.   

The Wildcats got a great performance from Lauren Zacharias, who finished with 25 points, more than double any of her teammates. Senior forward Kassidy Pingel was second in line with 11 points.  

“We have a lot of belief in what we can do,” Hughes said. “We are excited to get the opportunity to keep playing.” 

With the results around the NSIC, this put the Wildcats as the five seed out of the South division.  

“It’s going to take a lot of mental toughness and grit,” Fitzpatrick said. “But this team is ready to play. People should expect our team to play hard until the end.” 

The Wildcats are scheduled to begin their quest for a conference tournament championship against the University of Mary Marauders on Wednesday, Feb. 22. The game is scheduled to be played in Bismarck, North Dakota. on the campus of the University of Mary at 6:00 p.m.