Baker Stuns Shawnee State, 70-56
With the win, Baker (26-8) advances to the quarterfinals of the national championship for the first time in program history. Prior to today, the Wildcats were 0-1 all-time in the second round. Baker, which next plays tomorrow at 4 p.m., awaits the winner of No. 4 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) and No. 8 Cumberland (Tenn.).
“It’s hard to put it into words right now,” said Baker head coach Ben Lister. “The hard part is that you have to turn around and focus on tomorrow, but it’s not every day that you get to make history for your program. It says a lot these kids. They played their butts off today. I’m very proud of how they played, especially defensively. That’s kind of been our calling card all year.”
The Wildcats entered the second round with one of the NAIA stingiest defenses in the nation, leading the association in blocks per game (6.0) and field goal percentage defense (33.5 percent). Baker’s defensive prowess was on full display the entire game as they limited the high-powered Shawnee State offense to only 26.2 percent (16-of-61) shooting – 21.7 percent lower than their season average.
Baker seized the early lead, racing out to a 14-7 first quarter lead. Back-to-back buckets in the paint by Jami Hodge, who in the first round was on fire with a championship single-game high 30 points, highlighted the run. However, the Wildcats could not hold the Mid-South Conference Tournament champions at bay, as the Bears closed the first half on a 7-0 run to make it 14-14 at the first intermission.
Defense was the story of the second stanza, as neither club found much of a rhythm on offense. Baker and Shawnee State combined for only 20 points with 12 coming on the Wildcats’ side of the scoreboard, resulting in a 26-22 advantage for Baker.
Wallisch and Hodge, two of only four seniors on the relatively young Baker club, combined for 16 of the Wildcats’ 26 points. As a team, Baker shot 33.3 percent (9-of-27) from the field, while limiting the NAIA’s top-ranked shooting club to only a 20.7 percent (6-for-29) success rate.
Shawnee State guard Madison Ridout paced the team with eight points in the opening 20 minutes.
Baker found its stride on offense in the third quarter, highlighted by a 17-4 run that spanned nearly the entire period. The stretch was bookended by Hodge, who connected on a jumper in the paint to open the scoring and hit 3-of-4 free throws the end the run.
Shawnee State was never able to get closer than 11 the rest of the way.
Mid-South Conference co-Player of the Year Ali Zieverink, who entered the game leading the NAIA in points per game and ranked second in field goal percentage, was held out of double-digits for the first time this season. The forward from West Chester, Ohio, scored a season-low six points on 2-of-15 shooting.
Hodge led Baker in scoring with 22 points, while Wallisch tallied 18 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks for her ninth double-double on the year. Ericka Simpson chipped in 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Abby Feuchter led Shawnee State in scoring with 15 points.
With the loss, Shawnee State ends the year with a 29-6 record. The Bears have lost four-straight second round games.
For more information on the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, click here.