Thursday’s seventh game of the day in the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball Championship pitted No. 3 seed Mt. Marty (SD) (22-10) against No. 6 seed Purdue Calumet University (22-8). Mount Marty’s Alex Kneeland lit it up, going for a tournament high 34 points on 10 of 19 shooting to propel the Lancers in a 73-69 victory over the Pereguins.
“We wanted to have the ball in her hands when the game is on the line,” Mount Marty Head Coach Tom Schmlgen said. “She is such a good offensive player. I keep telling her ‘when you have the basketball the light is definitely on.’”
Raquel Setura also went for 14 points and nine rebounds and was the other only Lancer in double figures. Purdue Calumet’s one-two punch of Darien Cassidy Deno and Darien Thompson went for 23 and 25 points apiece.
Both of these teams entered the game with a paltry tournament history, with Mt. Marty amassing a 1-4 all-time record, while Purdue Calumet boasts a 1-2 all-time tournament record.
Entering the championship field, Mt. Marty was fresh off a 78-72 GPAC Conference tournament loss to fellow tournament team Dakota Wesleyan. Purdue Calumet was coming off a 13-point loss to fellow tournament team, No. 1 seed Olivet Nazarene, in the CCAC conference tournament. Both teams received an at-large bid to the tournament.
Mount Marty and Kneeland, who tallied 16 first half points, came out clicking offensively from the get go. Kneeland connected on a jumper before Wagner and Kneeland knocked down three-pointers to give the Lancers an 8-4 lead. Mount Marty shot 38% from the field in the first half on 14 of 37 shooting, but hit seven threes and shot 33% from behind the arc.
Purdue Calumet’s Darien Thompson looked unstoppable early, tallying 17 first half points on 4 of 6 shooting. Sophomore Katie Wampler also added 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting in the first half. Purdue Calumet outscored Mount Marty 24-14 in the second quarter and after a Wampler basket at the buzzer, held a four point lead at halftime.
Kneeland picked up right where she left off, scoring a basket to open the quarter, followed by a pair of free throws to cut the Purdue Calumet lead to two. After Kneeland knocked down a three-pointer, Sutera connected on a three-pointer of her own to put the Lancers up four midway through the third. Thompson hit a couple of free throws and the Lancers held a one-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Logan Wagner knocked down a three-pointer, before Deno answered to tie the game up at 58. Deno scored in the lane, before Sammy Kasowski made a layup to knot it at 62. Kneeland connected on a three-pointer, before Kasowski hauled in a rebound and scored to put the Lancers up one with 3:00 left.
Kneeland made one free throw, before making perhaps the most important shot of the night. Kneeland drove the lane, gave a head fake and finished a layup with the left hand in traffic to put the nail in the Peregrines’ coffin.
Despite the late layup and free throws, the Peregrines, by design, tried to limit Kneeland’s scoring late in the game.
“We tried to take her and Seture out of the game a little bit and make somebody else try and beat us,” Purdue Calumet Head Coach Tom Megys said. “But it’s hard to keep a good player down and any possession it could’ve gone the other way.”
For the Lancers, this win validates what they came to Sioux City to do.
“I think it’s [the win] is huge for us,” Kneeland said. “We didn’t want to get caught up in the banquets and the fancy activities, because it’s fun to be apart of it, but we’re here to win games.”