Top-ranked Morningside College advanced to the Final Four of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Tournament with a 71-60 win over Bethel College (Ind.) March 9 in the national tournament quarterfinals.
Morningside won its 15th game in a row and improved its record to 32-4 on the season, while Bethel bowed out with a 27-8 record. The Mustangs battled Indiana Wesleyan in the semifinals on March 11. A win put the Mustangs in the title game played March 12.
The win puts the Mustangs in the NAIA Division II Final Four for the sixth time during the Sale era. The win put Sale’s career record milestone of 400 wins, at 400-115 record including a 321-95 mark in 12 seasons at Morningside, 15 years overall. Sale guided the Mustangs to NAIA Division II National Championships in 2004, 2005 and 2009. He coached the women’s basketball team at Briar Cliff University for three seasons before that.
Chelsie Trask scored a game-high 15 points for the Mustangs to lead the way Saturday. Trask led the Mustangs in scoring for the 13th time this season.
Bobbi McManaman, a senior from Hawarden, gave the folks from her hometown who braved the elements to come to the contest at Tyson Events Center-Gateway Arena plenty reason to be proud. The former West Sioux Falcon helped extend the season at least one more game with 12 points, four rebounds and three steals. McManaman gave the Mustangs her seventh double figure performance off the bench in the last 10 games. She totaled 262 points this season after the quarterfinal round win, 7.5 points per game average.
“She made three-pointers in practice all the time. It was a matter of time before she made them in games, said Morningside Coach Jamie Sale early in McManaman’s recent surge to the top of the team’s minutes-played category. He praised her for her work to come back from a knee injury two years ago.
On Saturday against Bethel, McManaman made four of 10 three-point baskets. She gave the Mustangs an early 15-3 lead at the 14:54 mark of the fist half with a three pointer.
Other scoring weapons for the Mustangs came from Ashlynn Muhl with 11 points. Hanna Blum and Jessic Tietz each scoreed eight points and Shelby Beaudette had seven points.
Morningside dominated the rebounding with a 52-29 advantage, led by eight caroms each by Bulm and Muhl.
Blum added a game-high four assists. She had the task of stopping the Pilots top-shooting guard Laura Johnson. Johnson was this season’s Crossroads League Player of the Year, and had scored 18.8 points per game in the national tournament, but was held to nine points and only three field goals in 15 attempts. The Pilots shot only 32.3 percent as a squad, including 23.3 percent in the first half.
Morningside increased its lead to 17 points when a conventional three-point play by Tietz made the score 26-9 with 3:02 left in the first half. The Pilots made five of their last eight shots of the half and trailed 32-23 at halftime.
Bethel went on a 15-9 scoring run to start the second half. Alyshia Harvey capped the Pilots’ run with a fast break lay-up for a 40-38 deficit with 11:56 left in the contest.
The Mustangs answered with seven straight points, including a conventional three-point play by Muhl, to open the lead back to nine points, 47-38, with 10:03 left. Bethel closed within six points on two occasions and four points once, 54-50, when Harvey made a three-pointer with 4:57 left in the game.
Trask, who was clutch in the Mustangs’ second half effort against the College of Idaho in a 69-47 second round win March 8, came up big again. The senior All-American made a three-pointer for a 57-50 lead. A Blum jump shot pushed the lead back to double digits at 61-50 with 3:44 left.
On to the Final Four
The Mustangs faced fourth-ranked Indiana Wesleyan in the second semifinal game of the Final Four round on March 11. The Wildcats, who were ranked No. 1 in the nation in seven of this season’s 12 polls, won the NAIA Division II title in 2007, marking the only time in the last 12 years where the national championship did not go to a team from the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC). The Mustangs won this year’s GPAC regular season and post-season tournament championships, while Indiana Wesleyan was co-champion of the Crossroads League.
Indiana Wesleyan had beaten Briar Cliff University, 69-57, in a quarterfinal round to earn the spot opposite the Mustangs.
The Monday semifinal other game pitted Northwestern College, 26-7 record, against Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Champion Davenport College (Mich.) 32-3 record, 62-60 winners over Eastern Oregon in the quarterfinals.