The second national semifinal at the NCAA Division III championships nearly turned into a two-on-two battle. While Wisconsin-Whitewaters Amy Mandrell and Mary Merg kept scoring points, ultimately Heather Johns and Sarah Andereggs Whitman squad pulled away for an 85-70 victory to advance to todays national championship game for the first time in school history.
Wisconsin-Whitewater (26-5) slowly pulled out to a 17-12 first half lead behind six points from Amy Mandrell, before Whitman (31-1) responded. Trailing 20-16, the Missionaries scored 11 consecutive points, capped by a Heather Johns 3-pointer that lit up Quandt Fieldhouse. Whitman lead 27-20 before the Warhawks Mary Merg drilled back-to-back three-pointers to cut Whitmans lead to 29-26. But another 3-pointer by Johns sparked a 12-2 Whitman run and the Missionaries went into halftime leading 41-30.
The Warhawks Kristen Ruchti scored a basket, sandwhiched between a pair of Mandrell hoops to get Wis.-Whitewater within seven points at 43-36 early in the second half, but that was as close as they would ever get again. When the Warhawks were back within seven points with 7:58 to go at 60-53, the Missionaries blew out on a 14-6 run for a 74-59 advantage and never looked back. Johns scored the final five points on that run on her way to a career-high 33 points.
After Johns outburst, Anderegg went 11-for-14 from the free throw line to finish with 21 points, and added 12 rebounds for a double-double. Meghan White also had 12 rebounds to go with 10 points for a double-double of her own. Hailey Ann Maeda scored 10 points off the bench for the Missionaries who shot 49.2 percent from the field, and 21-for-25 at the free throw line.
Wis.-Whitewater received a huge game from Mandrell who scored 30 points on 12-for-17 shooting and also grabbed 12 rebounds. Ten of Mandrells 12 rebounds were on the offensive end. Merg scored 21 points, while Kaitlyn Thill had a game-high six assists. The Warhawks turned the ball over just 10 times, but shot 33.3 percent from the field.
Whitman will face FDU-Florham (32-0), who advanced earlier in the evening with a 42-39 victory against Tufts, in todays national championship game. Both schools will be seeking their first national title in womens basketball.
Whitman 85, Wisconsin-Whitewater 70
WHITMAN Sarah Anderegg 5-14 11-14 21; Heather Johns 12-22 6-6 33; Hailey McDonald 1-3 0-0 2; Tiffani Traver 1-3 4-4 7; Meghan White 5-8 0-1 10; Marah Alindogan 0-0 0-0 0; Chelsi Brewer 0-0 0-0 0; Hallie Buse 0-0 0-0 0; Katie Gray 0-0 0-0 0; Alysse Ketner 1-5 0-0 2; Hailey Ann Maeda 5-6 0-0 10. Totals 30-61 21-25 85.
WISCONSIN-WHITEWATER Katie Burton 2-10 0-0 6; Amy Mandrell 12-17 6-7 30; Mary Merg 7-20 3-4 21; Kristen Ruchti 2-10 0-0 4; Kaitlyn Thill 1-10 3-4 5; Andrea Olsen 0-5 2-2 2; Reilly Stewart 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 25-75 14-17 70.
HalftimeWhitman 41, WW 30. 3-point goalsWhitman 4-7 (Johns 3-5, Traver 1-1, Ketner 0-1), WW 6-22 (Merg 4-7, Burton 2-9, Thill 0-6). ReboundsWhitman 48 (Anderegg, White 12), WW 38 (Mandrell 12). AssistsWhitman 11 (Johns 3), WW 10 (Thill 6). TurnoversWhitman 13, WW 10. FoulsWhitman 16, WW 19. Fouled outRuchti, Thill.
FDU-Florham 42, Tufts 39: In a national semifinal battle of a top-10 offense versus a top-10 defense, the defense won out, but FDU-Florham still produced enough scoring to advance past Tufts and reach its first NCAA Division III national championship game. The Devils overcame an ice-cold start to extended their unbeaten season with a 42-39 victory against the Jumbos at Quandt Fieldhouse.
Tufts (30-2) second-ranked defense set the tone early on, as the Jumbos held the 10th-highest scoring offense in the country to just one field goal in their first 18 shot attempts. Still, FDU-Florham (32-0) only trailed 11-6 when Kyra Dayon broke the string with consecutive baskets, the second coming with 9:29 left in the half. The Devils clawed their way back attacking the basket inside with Kyra Dayon and Shalette Brown. Jalessa Lewis put FDU-Florham even with a bucket with 14 seconds left to forge a 22-22 halftime tie.
FDU-Florham took their first lead on a 3-pointer and a mid-range jumper by Kyra Dayon for a 27-24 lead with 18:25 to go in the game. Those two buckets sparked an 11-2 run which put the Devils ahead 33-26 with 14:53 to play. Tufts trimmed the Devils advantage to 35-32 on a Michaela North layup and an Emma Roberson layup with just under 12 minutes to play, but FDU-Florham got a layup and a free throw from Lewis and a steal and a layup from Shalette Brown to take their largest lead of the game at 40-32 with 8:30 to go.
Tufts responded by scoring the next six points capped by two Roberson free throws at the 6:30 mark. FDU-Florham scored their final points of the game with 3:32 left, which set the stage for one of the nations top offensive teams to flex their defensive muscles. The Devils held the Jumbos without a field goal in the final seven minutes of the game. Tufts North was fouled down low with 23 seconds left, but only converted one of two free throws and FDU-Florham retained a 42-39 lead.
With 14.8 seconds left Tufts Roberson made a huge play to tie up the ball on a Devils baseline inbound, giving the Jumbos possession. Tufts called their final timeout with 9.0 seconds to play to setup their final play, trailing 42-39. However, the Devils ball pressure nearly resulted in a steal and Hannah Foleys off balance 3-point shot at the buzzer sailed long.
FDU-Florham was led by Kyra Dayon who scored 17 points on 8-for-18 shooting. Teammate Shalette Brown scored eight points and pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds, which allowed the Devils to win despite shooting just 27.6 percent from the field.
FDU-Florham pulled down 19 offensive rebounds for the game. Lewis finished with seven points and two assists, the only two assists for the Devils on the night.
North led the Jumbos with 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench, as Tufts starters combined for just 16 points. Kelsey Morehead had seven points, three assists and played every minute of the game. Roberson had six points and five rebounds. The Jumbos shot 34.8 percent, but turned the ball over 19 times. Tufts ends its first trip to the NCAA Division III semifinals with a record of 30-2.
FDU-Florham will attempt to become the second consecutive team to win an undefeated national title, joining DePauw in 2013.