A second half comeback lifted the No. 3 seed Mount Marty Lancers over No. 2 seed the College of the Ozarks by a score of 74-67. With the win, the Lancers have cemented their place into the quarterfinals and the Mount Marty record books.
“We said that once we got to the sweet 16, that’s the furthest Mount Marty has ever been, so we said this could be the biggest game in Mount Marty history,” Head Coach Tom Schlimgen said. “So that was our thing for this game.”
Alex Kneeland led the Lancers with 27 points on 8 of 18 shooting and Cassidy Gebhart added 10 points and four rebounds of her own. Hannah Wisdom led the Bobcats with 17 points, while Brandy Uchtman added 15 points and 10 rebounds of her own.
The final game in the second round of the NAIA Women’s DII National Championship tournament pitted perennial power, No. 2 seed College of the Ozarks against the newcomer, the No. 3 seed Lancers from Mount Marty.
The Lancers came out on a red-hot start, outscoring College of the Ozarks 28-13 after the first quarter. Mount Marty’s star, Alex Kneeland, outscored the entire Bobcat team in the first quarter, tallying 16 points.
As a team, Mount Marty shot 45 percent from the field in the first half on 14 of 31 shooting and shot 42 percent from behind the three-point line on 8 of 19 attempts. The Bobcats’ results were similar, shooting 45 percent from the field on 13 of 29 shooting and 40 percent from behind the arc on 4 of 10 shooting.
College of the Ozarks received significant scoring contributions from three different players, Cassidy Johnson, Uchtman and Kelsie Cleeton. Johnson had nine points at the half, while Uchtman and Johnson tallied 10 and 11. Other than Kneeland, Mount Marty only had more than one player score more than five at halftime.
The Bobcats stormed back in the 2nd quarter, thanks an old-fashioned three-point play, followed by a three-pointer from Uchtman. Sutera knocked down a three at the 1:00 mark and Mount Marty trailed by just one at halftime.
“That [rally] was huge,” College of the Ozarks Head Coach Becky Vest said. “That’s how our kids are, they battle night in and night out and never gave up. It took guts to come back.”
Mount Marty came out strong in the second half and refused to relinquish their lead. Kneeland made two free throws and the very next possession, converted an acrobatic layup that turned into an old-fashioned three-point play for the Lancers. That layup sparked the crowd’s energy and gave the Lancers a six point lead heading into the fourth.
Wisdom knocked down an early shot and sunk a three-pointer to cut the lead to five. Kneeland continued to knock down late free throws as the Lancers hung on to advance to the quarterfinals.
“It’s awesome,” Mount Marty guard Cassidy Gebhart said. “Coach has never been here and we’ve never been here. It’s a pretty great experience and there’s no words that you can say to it.”
In the quarterfinals, the Lancers will face off against the hot-shooting Olivet Nazarene Tigers on Saturday at 8 p.m.