Defending Champions Muscle Their Way to Quarterfinals Yet Again
The Stars flirted with letting a large lead get away once again, but stopped the Bears’ second-half run in its tracks, and earned a spot in Saturday’s quarterfinals with an 87-68 victory.
Oklahoma City (27-2) once again steamrolled out of the gate and got up by double-digits at halftime, 42-31. Yvonte Neal was a key cog to the Stars’ offensive game plan execution in the first half, exploding for half of her team’s points – 21 on eight-of-15 shooting; including four-of-six 3-point makes.
Shawnee State was led by a duo of double-figure scorers in the first 20 minutes (Ali Zieverink 13 points; Ashley McMurtrey 10). Those two players accounted for 23 of the squad’s 31 points (74.2 percent), as only four players on the roster registered a point in the first session.
Three areas – points off turnovers (14-2), second-chance points (13-6) and bench scoring (14-0) – were one-sided in the Stars’ favor before intermission.
Good free throw shooting kept the Bears within striking distance, as the fifth-seeded squad was 12-for-15 (80 percent) from the charity stripe.
A second half comeback attempt by Shawnee State was sparked by Abby Feuchter’s 14-second half points. Feuchter was four-of-six from the land of plenty in the final half, as she finished with 20 points on seven-of-11 shooting from the field.
The Bears were able to use clutch shots from the likes of Feuchter and disruptive defense to chip their deficit to seven points, 59-52, with 10:36 remaining in the game. Shawnee State would get no closer the rest of the way, however, as Rateska Brown nailed a three to put the Stars back up double-figures.
From there, Oklahoma City cruised the rest of the way and into a quarterfinal matchup with Cinderella Great Falls (Mont.), who earlier in the day upset yet another foe – No. 3 Langston (Okla.).
McMurtrey joined Feuchter with 20 points in the contest for the Bears. Zieverink was held to only two second-half points, but netted 15 in defeat. Shawnee State, who entered the national championship as the Mid-South Conference tournament champion, ends its season at 25-10.
The Bears have made the second round of the championship in each of its five appearances, but is now 1-4 in the second day of competition, including dropping four-consecutive second-round matchups.
A trio of Stars led the way in Oklahoma City’s triumph. Neal was out-front with a game-high 28 points. Joining her with 10-plus points was Marisha Wallace (16) and Ouleymatou Coulibaly (12). Defensively, Cetoria Petties registered seven steals.
The top-seed has now made the quarterfinals in seven-straight appearances in the national championships, dating back to 2009.
The Stars now set their sights on the Argonauts, who are making their first national championship appearance. Tip is set for tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. CDT.