Lady Wildcats fall short of conference tournament title

Wayne State outmuscled by Northern State 61-45 in NSIC tournament finals

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  • Seniors Ashton Yossi, Jordan Spencer and Millie Niggeling show distress as the final horn sounds in WSC’s 61-45 loss to Northern State in the NSIC tournament finals.

  • Seniors Ashton Yossi, Jordan Spencer and Millie Niggeling show distress as the final horn sounds in WSC’s 61-45 loss to Northern State in the NSIC tournament finals.

  • Maggie Schulte goes up for a contested layup in WSC’s victory over St. Cloud State Saturday night in the NSIC conference tournament.

  • Sadie Murren steals the ball and falls to the court in last Monday’s victory over MSU Moorhead to reach the NSIC conference tournament finals.

  • Ashton Yossi drives the lane through the Northern State defense in last night’s 61-45 loss to the Wolves.

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Richard Rhoden, Editor in Chief

With each game, the pressure rose, and one team outperformed the other.

Northern State defeated Wayne State 61-45 to win the 2015 NSIC Sanford Health Women’s Basketball Tournament Tuesday night at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Northern State grabbed the momentum early, scoring the first eight points of the contest. They were able to gain composure, but never put enough of a run together to take the lead.

“We just didn’t settle in on the offensive end and play the way you need to play to be successful,” Coach Chris Kielsmeier said. “We really fought the game, and didn’t hit the shots we needed to hit. We got good shots, but we knew that was how Northern plays you.”

At the end of the first half, Wayne State trailed Northern State 29-22. The Wolves shot 45 percent from the field while recording 11 assists. The Wildcats struggled in the first half, shooting 33 percent from the field while committing 10 turnovers.

“That was the big message, we played this poorly and we were only down seven and still have a shot to win the game,” Kielsmeier said. “I thought we would come out and really show the fight Staterthat we have all year, be the team that we have all year, but we just couldn’t hit a shot. It comes down to making plays and we just didn’t do that tonight. I kept thinking that it was going to happen, but eventually you run out of time.”

Northern State continued to bully Wayne State up and down the court, extending the lead to as much as 21 points at one time.

The Wolves finished the game shooting 43 percent from the field while snatching 28 points in the paint, 25 points off turnovers and 11 second chance points.

Wayne State never got into an offensive rhythm throughout the game, shooting 37 percent from the field and 30 percent from long range. The Wildcats did not attempt a free throw until the second half and finished the game 7-9 from the charity stripe.

Wayne State left the court dejected and disappointed.

Finishing as the NSIC regular season champions, losing in the conference title game was a tough pill to swallow.

“What’s disappointing is how we handled the day,” Kielsmeier said. “We are a lot better team than this, and didn’t really represent ourselves the way we are capable of doing so. This group won the regular season title, and proved from August to now that they were the best team in the league and you’ll never be able to take that from this group.

“I’m extremely proud of them for everything they have done. It just wasn’t our day today, you have to play better than this on a championship day, and we just didn’t do that.”

Jordan Spencer and Sadie Murren were named to the NSIC All-Tournament Team after the championship game Tuesday night along with three Northern State Wolves.

It was a long road to make it to the finals.

Wayne State shot a lights-out 51 percent from the field in an 81-59 shellacking in the semifinals against MSU Moorhead. The win also marked Kielsmeier’s 350th career victory.

“It means you coached a lot of really good players,” Kielsmeier said of his 350th win. “I always concern myself with the losses more than I do with the wins, but I’ve won a lot of games over my career because of my players and the staff.”

Five Wildcats scored in double-figures in the victory. Spencer led Wayne State with 22 points, Ashton Yossi scored 14, Millie Niggeling recorded 13 while Paige Ballinger and Murren notched 10 apiece. Murren also recorded 10 assists for a double-double in the game.

The Wildcats were led by the three seniors in WSC’s 76-63 win over St. Cloud State Saturday night in the quarterfinals.

Spencer led Wayne State in scoring with 23 points, while Ashton Yossi and Millie Niggeling each chipped in 12 points.

Kielsmeier was appreciative of the travel efforts of WSC fans all weekend.

“Our fan base was so loud and passionate and it was great to see that many people there,” he said Saturday night.

WSC will find out for sure on Sunday, but a trip to the NCAA Central Region is all but a lock for the Lady Wildcats.

“We know we’re in for sure, and that’s a great feeling,” Kielsmeier said. “That eases the pain a little bit, knowing that there is going to be another day. But I think right now that we just have to go home and rest, this is a really tired basketball team.

“They did everything that I asked up until this point to win and be successful. We will rest, prepare hard, and put ourselves in a position to hopefully play our best game of the year.”

Other teams projected to be in the region are Fort Hayes State, Pittsburg State, Emporia State and for sure Northern, as the conference champion receives an automatic bid into the tournament.

“I know there is no doubt that when we play our best that we can beat anybody,” Kielsmeier said. “It was a very disappointing performance on the defensive end, made a lot of mistakes and it just wasn’t our day. We just didn’t play very well.”