Senior day a sweet one for Lady Wildcats

WSC extends winning streak, clinches a share of the regular season conference title

Connor Ryan, Staff Writer

The Wayne State women’s basketball team barely escaped an upset bid by the University of Sioux Falls Cougars Friday night in Rice Auditorium.

The Cougars pushed the Wildcats’ then 12-game-win-streak to the limit with the ‘Cats eventually pulling out the win in overtime, 76-74.

The win improved the Wildcats win streak to 13 games and their record to 22-3 overall and 16-3 in NSIC play.

The first half of play included five ties and seven lead changes eventually ending with the Cougars ahead 31-29 at halftime.

The second half was much of the same, with no team leading by more than five points at any time and a half that saw 10 ties and 13 lead changes.

The Wildcats led 65-63 near the end of the second half, but a Cougars jump shot tied the game 65-65.

Senior forward Jordan Spencer had a chance to win the game for the Wildcats in the waning seconds, but turned the ball over with three ticks left which sent the game to overtime.

The Wildcats, despite one tie, held the lead for the entire overtime, using free throws from freshman forward Paige Ballinger, junior guard Sadie Murren and senior guard Ashton Yossi to secure the victory. As a whole, the Wildcats went 9-14 from the free throw line in overtime.

Coach Chris Kielsmeier was proud of his girls’ effort but not the execution.

“We deserved to win the game from an effort and perseverance standpoint,” Kielsmeier said. “But we don’t deserve to win the game from an execution stand point.”

Senior forward Millie Niggeling led the way for Wayne State, pouring in 21 points with 6 rebounds, Ashton Yossi finished with 17 points, 5 assists and 4 steals.

Jordan Spencer went for a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The Wildcats only shot 34 percent from the field, while going 7-21 from three point range and went 25-37 from the free throw line. The Wildcats were out-rebounded 54-45, but were able to force the Cougars into 22 turnovers, while Wayne State only turned the ball over 15 times themselves.

“Everything we’ve been doing right throughout this stretch where we’ve been winning games, we’re just not sharp enough right now,” Kielsmeier said. “Yet we still continue to find ways to win games, so you have to give our players a tremendous amount of credit.”

The Wildcats then left no doubt in Saturday’s game, as it was senior night for Niggeling, Spencer and Yossi. The ‘Cats dominated the Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs 100-52.

The win was the 14th straight for the Wildcats, as they improved to 23-3 overall and 17-3 in conference play.

Wayne State used a late run in the first half to take a 50-29 lead going into halftime.

In the second half, the Wildcats kept the foot on the gas pedal, eventually cruising to the 48 point victory and sending the seniors out in style.

“What a special group,” Kielsmeier said of his seniors. “As good of players as they are, which is three of the best players in the history of this school, they’re better people and better leaders.”

Spencer led the three seniors with 20 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. Yossi finished with 18 points, 6 assists and 4 steals while Niggeling finished with 12 points. Ballinger also poured in 16 points and collected 4 rebounds.

Wayne State shot 59 percent from the field while going 8-18 from beyond the arc and was 18-21 from the free throw line.

The Wildcats forced the Mustangs into 30 turnovers on the game compared to only 10 giveaways for the Wildcats. Wayne State scored 47 points off of those turnovers.

“Such an exciting time of year right now,” Kielsmeier said. “Hopefully, a lot of people will continue to watch us play and continue to jump on the bandwagon. We’ll have a lot of fun and it will be a great post season run.”

The Wildcats look to finish out the regular season schedule and wrap up a regular season conference championship this weekend. They go to Winona State on Friday night to take on the Warriors at 6 p.m. and then take on the Upper Iowa Peacocks on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Sioux Falls…………….31 34 9 – 74
Wayne State ………….29 36 11 – 76
USF – Varsho-22, Knecht-14, Ulmer-10, Molden-8, Paden-6, Becker-5, Malloy-4, Klostergaard-3, Dahl-2
WSC – Niggeling-20, Yossi-17, Spencer-14, Murren-9, Ballinger-8, Schulte-6, Nelson-1

SWMS…………………….29 23 – 52
Wayne State.………….50 50 – 100
SMSU – Hedlund-12, Degler-8, Rosch-8, Connell–6, Gehl-5, Bonlander-4, Holicky-4, Hendrickson-2, Duske-2, Frazier-2
WSC- Spencer-20, Yossi-18, Ballinger-16, Niggeling-12, Moore-9, Nelson-7, Shulte-6, Murren-4, O’Connor-4, Bretoi-2, Hoskins-2