By Travis Rae, Communications and Sports Information Intern
SIOUX CITY, Iowa - (Box Score) No. 4 Indiana Wesleyan advanced to its first semifinals since 2010 when they defeated No. 14 Briar Cliff (Iowa), 69-57, in the quarterfinals of the State Farm-NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship. The Wildcats dominated the paint as they scored 40 of its 69 points in the paint.
Briar Cliff started off the game against the defensive minded Indiana Wildcats quick as they hit a layup to get the scoring started in the game. However, after the layup the Chargers went over four minutes before registering its second field goal of the game.
During this time the Wildcats started to stretch their lead over Briar Cliff. Indiana Wesleyan went on a 13-4 run that was capped by a Val Sohasky points in the paint. The Wildcats shot 48 percent from the floor in the first half.
Indiana Wesleyan defense forced 13 Chargers turnovers and held Briar Cliff to only four made field goals for the entire first half. The Wildcats defense held the Chargers without a field goal for 12:14 before Briar Cliff hit a layup at the buzzer going into halftime. The Wildcats led 26-15.
Briar Cliff offense came out on fire in the second half as they started the half on a 9-0 run. Kelsey Evans got the Chargers going with a layup and Sara Reeves followed with a quick layup to trim the Wildcats lead to 26-20. Evans scored the next four points for the Chargers. Briar Cliff made four field goals to match its total field goals in the first half.
After the Chargers went on its 9-0 run the Wildcats answered with a first field goal with 16:35 left in the game. Katrina Blackmon hit a layup and was fouled to start extending the Wildcats lead. Blackmon hit the free-throw for the old fashioned 3-point play extending the lead to 31-24.
Briar Cliff would not go away as they continued to battle back. With the Wildcats ahead 32-28 the Chargers made a started a comeback. Teneil Krebs hit a three-pointer cutting the Wildcats lead to one, 32-31.
Once the Chargers cut the lead to one point, the Wildcats and Chargers started a seesaw game. After Paige Herrboldt tied the game at 36, the Chargers took their first lead since they led 2-0, after Lexi Henschke made one free throw to put Briar Cliff up 37-36.
After talking the one point lead, Indiana Wesleyan clamped down on the defensive end and the Wildcats went on an 8-0 run that Sohasky ended with a pair of free throws to put the Wildcats up 44-37.
The Chargers looked as if they had a comeback brewing as Masters hit a layup and ad pair of free throws to trim the Wildcats lead to 47-44. However, after the Chargers got that close the Wildcats began to put the game out of reach.
"We knew Briar Cliff was going to make a run but we didn't want it to be that soon," said Indiana Wesleyan head coach Steve Brooks. "We created some of that by playing to fast but we weathered the storm."
Paige Smith hit a layup to, her 19th point of the game to extend the Wildcats lead to 50-44. Next position for Smith drove and found an open Blackman for a layup to extend to 52-44. The Wildcats continued to pull away and won the game 69-57.
Paige Smith led all scorers with 25 points and 12 rebounds in the contest. This was her sixth double-double of the season. Slone Masters came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points for the Chargers.
"Indiana Wesleyan did a great job of controlling the tempo," said Chargers head coach Mike Powers. "We gave up way to many easy baskets and couldn't keep our momentum going on the offensive end."
The Wildcats will take on the winner of Bethel (Ind.) and Morningside (Iowa) game in the semifinals of the Division II Women's National Championship game. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Monday.