Newcomers send Warhawk women home
STEVENS POINT—UW-Whitewater suffered from a classic case of role reversal on Friday night.
The Warhawks came to their second consecutive NCAA Division III Final Four knowing none of the other teams had ever been there and that they’d play in familiar confines at UW-Stevens Point.
Whitman College was making its first national semifinal appearance and had to travel 1,400 miles just to do so.
But it was the Missionaries who looked right at home on Bennett Court. They shot nearly 50 percent and got a career-high 33 points from standout guard Heather Johns in an 85-70 victory.
Whitman will take on Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham in the national championship tonight. Whitewater faces Tufts for third place.
“It was definintely frustrating,” Whitewater senior guard Mary Merg said. “We’ve done a great job all throughout the tournament of not panicking. We just couldn’t get that momentum.”
Merg scored 21 points and added seven rebounds. Senior forward Amy Mandrell was 12-for-17 from the floor for 30 points and had a dozen boards.
Beyond that, the Warhawks looked uncomfortable all night. Players not named Merg or Mandrell made just 6 of 38 shot attempts.
“They had a great game plan,” Whitewater coach Keri Carollo said. “I thought they did a really nice job defending us early.”
The Warhawks led 17-12 nearing the midway point of the first half, but senior center Kristen Ruchti picked up her second foul.
Whitewater made just one basket in the next 5 minutes 48 seconds. Whitman put together a 15-3 run that the Warhawks never truly recovered from.
“That hurt us a lot; (Ruchti’s) obviously a big presence in there, not only with rebounding but also with scoring,” Carollo said. “That was unfortunate that she picked up a couple early fouls. It definitely changed the game for us.”
Whitman led by 11 at the break and Whitewater never got closer than seven points.
The Warhawks cut the deficit to that seven-point margin five different times, but the Missionaries always had an answer.
“We’re definitely a momentum team; we snowball,” Merg said. “If we get one stop, we can snowball for more. But we just couldn’t get that snowball effect tonight. It really hurt us and hurt our confidence.”
Johns certainly wasn’t lacking confidence. She scored 21 points after halftime and finished 12-for-22 from the field and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
“She’s smart, she knows how to distribute, she handles the ball really well, she handles pressure really well,” Carollo said. “We tried a lot of different things.
“You get in this type of situation against great players and you always just hope (to) slow them down a little bit. We did not slow her down.”
The loss put a damper on the Warhawks’ second straight trip to the Final Four. They finished as the runners-up to a national championship a year ago but must settle for the consolation game today.
“We wanted that national title,” Mandrell said. “But the game’s over and you’ve got to move on. You’re still in the Final Four and you’re still a top team in the nation.”
WHITMAN 85, WHITEWATER 70
Whitman (85)—Anderegg, 5-11-21; White, 5-0-10; Johns, 12-6-33; Traver, 1-4-7; McDonald, 1-0-2; Ketner, 1-0-2; Maeda, 5-0-10. Totals: 30-21-85.
Whitewater (70)—Mandrell, 12-6-30; Ruchti, 2-0-4; Thill, 1-3-5; Burton, 2-2-6; Merg, 7-3-21; Stewart, 1-0-2; Olsen, 0-2-2. Totals: 25-14-70.
Whitman 41 44—85
UW-Whitewater 30 40—70
Three-point goals—Whitman 4 (Johns 3, Traver), Whitewater 6 (Burton 2, Merg 4). Free throws missed—Whitman 4, Whitewater 3. Total fouls—Whitman 16, Whitewater 19. Fouled out—Ruchti, Thill.