By Travis Rae, Communications and Sports Information Intern
SIOUX CITY, Iowa - (Box Score) For the first time since 2007, there will not be a Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) team in the Championship game, as No. 4 Indiana Wesleyan defeated No. 1 Morningside (Iowa), 65-64, to advance to the championship game in the State Farm-NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship. Indiana Wesleyan started the game on an 18-1 run and never trailed in the contest. The Wildcats, who were the last non-GPAC school to win a national championship, will look for its second title in school history.
Indiana Wesleyan offense kicked it up a notch to start the game as the Wildcats started the game on an 18-1 run. Paige Smith led the Wildcats on the run by scoring 10 of the 18 points for Indiana Wesleyan. The run was capped off by a Claire Ray three pointer to put the Wildcats up 18-1.
Morningside looked as it was going to get the offense going after that as they scored the next five points of the game. However, the Mustangs could not get closer than 12 points in the first 10 minutes of the contest.
Indiana Wesleyan kept its lead around 12 points until less than one minute left in the first half. With less than a minute to go, the Mustangs trimmed the lead down to nine points, 39-30, after a pair of free throws by Ashlynn Muhl. This would be the halftime score.
Both teams started trading baskets to start the second half as the lead bounced from nine to 11 points for the first six minutes of the second half. However, Morningside would not go away they cut the lead to six, 49-43 with 13:16 left.
The Wildcats grew the lead back up to 14 points, 57-43, after a layup by Ray with 9:07 left in the game. However, that was the last made field goal for Indiana Wesleyan for the game.
After Ray's layup, the Mustangs began trimming the lead down and cut it to single digits. With the Wildcats leading, 59-48, Morningside went on a 6-0 run to trim the lead down to, 59-54. The run started with a Chelsie Trask jumper and Bobbi McManaman hit a free throw and a three-pointer.
The Mustangs continued to fight back but still found themselves down six, 60-54, with less than two minutes to play in the game. Indiana Wesleyan continued to make its free throws but the Mustangs continued to stay close.
With under a minute to go, the Wildcats held onto an eight point lead, 62-54, when McManaman hit a three pointer and a layup in a 12 second span to cut the lead down to three, 62-59. The Wildcats continued to knock down its free throws to stretch its lead to 65-59. The Mustangs made one last run as Lacey Lehmann hit a jumper and McManaman hit another three but as McManaman's shot went through the net as the clock expired and Indiana Wesleyan came away with a one point win, 65-54.
""I'm thrilled with the opportunity," said Indiana Wesleyan head coach Steve Brooks. "We told the kids before the game that you never know if you're going to get here. We want to give our best effort because at the end of the time we want to look at each other and say we didn't have anything left in the tank. I think our kids really competed hard from start to finish."
Paige Smith led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while Taylor Goshert followed with 13 points for the Wildcats. Bobbi McManaman came off the bench to lead Morningside with 19 points.
Indiana Wesleyan will take on Davenport (Mich.) in the finals of the Division II Women's National Championship game. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CST on Tuesday. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.