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Late rally lifts Warhawk women

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Gazette staff
February 24, 2012
— UW-Whitewater's final rush propelled the Warhawks into the championship game of the WIAC women's tournament Thursday night.

Coach Keri Carollo's team outscored the bigger Blugolds, 12-2, in the final five minutes to pull out a 57-53 semifinal victory at Zorn Arena.


Whitewater, the No. 3 seed, plays at No. 1-seed Stevens Point at 3 p.m. Saturday for the conference tournament title.


Whitewater (22-5) overcame 27.3 percent shooting to stun Eau Claire in the final minutes. Two free throws by Laura Olson put Eau Claire up, 51-45 with 5:12 left in the game.


Whitewater's Kaitlyn Thill cut the deficit in half with a three-pointer at the 4:44 mark, and Courtney Kumerow's layup got the Warhawks to within 51-50 with 3:22 left.


Mary Merg put Whitewater ahead, 52-51, with two free throws with 2:24 left.


Eau Claire scored its first basket in more than 4 minutes to regain the lead, but Merg hit a huge three-pointer to put Whitewater ahead for good, 55-53 with 1:07 left.


"We finally hit some shots," Carollo said. "Then we had some great defensive effort down the stretch."


Whitewater forced a turnover with 45 seconds left. The Warhawks missed two more shots, but Kumerow stole the ball with 8 seconds left and sealed the victory with two free throws.


The Warhawks survived 14 points and 17 rebounds from the Pointers' 6-foot-5 center Ellen Plendl, and 19 points and seven rebounds from 6-foot Callie Halama.


"Both their big kids played really well," Carollo said. "We did a nice job pressuring them in the backcourt and limited their touches inside."


Whitewater's defense forced 28 Eau Claire turnovers, while Whitewater had just 11. That helped overcome the Blugolds' 43-33 rebounding advantage.


Now Whitewater needs to figure out a way to beat Stevens Point, which beat the Warhawks by scores of 71-50 and 80-58 during the regular season.


"We're playing with a lot more confidence," Carollo said. "Tonight was a big step. We've had trouble playing at Zorn. It's a big confidence booster."


WHITEWATER 57, EAU CLAIRE 53


Whitewater (57)—Thill, 3-4-12; Merg, 6-3-17; Swanson, 2-1-6; Burg, 5-3-14; Kumerow, 2-2-6; Bestor, 0-2-2. Totals: 18-15-57.


Eau Claire (53)—Olson, 1-2-4; Christianson, 3-1-9; Bingea, 2-2-6; Halama, 8-3-19; Plendl, 4-6-14; Miller, 0-1-1. Totals: 18-15-53.


Whitewater 23 34—57


Eau Claire 28 25—53


Three-point goals—Whitewater 6 (Thill 2, Merg 2, Swanson, Burg), Eau Claire 2 (Christianson 2). Free throws missed—Whitewater 3, Eau Claire 6. Total fouls—Whitewater 20, Eau Claire 14. Rebounds—Whitewater 33 (Kumerow 7), Eau Claire 43 (Plendl 17). Assists—Whitewater 7 (Burg 3), Eau Claire 12 (Bingea 5).



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