Andrew Clark – Staff Writer
On Sunday, Feb. 26, history was once again made. The top-seeded Gustavus Gusties Women’s basketball team took the court against the number two seed Concordia Cobbers in the MIAC Championship game. Head Women’s Basketball Coach Laurie Kelly led the Gusties to a 79-57 victory over Concordia to win the MIAC Championship for not only the second time, but for the second year in a row.
The Gustavus Women’s Basketball team has already been on a record-setting season with a record of 24-2 coming into the game.
“Coming into the game we have been playing our best basketball as a team… we felt confident because we were well prepared and ready to go on our home court in front of our fans,” Sophomore Guard Kylie Baranick said.
With a lot of hype behind the season already, family, friends, fans and fellow athletes packed the home bleachers Saturday at Gus Young Court in support of the team.
“We felt great as a team coming into the tournament. We were confident that if we just played ‘Gustavus Basketball’ that would be enough to get us the Championship. To be able to do it, for the first time ever, on Gus Young Court, in front of all our friends, family, and fans was magical! The crowd was amazing and really helped push us to victory. The support from the other student-athletes cheering from the stands meant so much to our players. The local fans and our family members all showed up to cheer us on, which makes that moment even more special,” Head Women’s Basketball Coach Laurie Kelly said.
The Gusties came out with a quick lead in the first quarter, and never let the Cobbers recover. Gustavus ended the first quarter having 11 unanswered points. The Gustie defense continued to never let up, keeping the Cobbers to very minimal scoring.
“The crowd was amazing and really helped push us to victory. The support from the other student-athletes cheering from the stands meant so much to our players. The local fans and our family members all showed up to cheer us on, which makes that moment even more special,” Baranick said.
After the first quarter, the Gusties refused to let up and held their lead for the remainder of the game. Baranick led the Gusties to a dominating victory, scoring a career-high of 24 points on 5-9 shooting from the floor and a perfect 12-12 on free throws. Gustavus led by as much as 26 points throughout the game. At the end of the first half, Gustavus led 40-27.
After halftime, the Gusties made quick work of the Cobbers and easily led the rest of the game. If the Cobbers went on a surge, Gustavus would go on a bigger, longer, and higher-scoring surge.
The Gusties could smell the victory from the start of the second half leading by 26 points at the high point. The Cobbers tried their best to come back, and they made a respectable effort, but they could not overcome the power of the Gusties.
“As we got up over 20 points and were in the 4th quarter, it sank in that we were going to win this Championship on our home court and make history. For 11 years, I have dreamed of watching our players climb a ladder in their own gym, and cut down a piece of the net. For every player and coach that has been part of Gustie women’s basketball’s history…they were a part of this journey and I am grateful for them all. Our victory Sunday, was their victory too,” Coach Kelly said in reference to the final moments of the game.
The Gusties were victorious over the Cobbers with a score of 79-57. The Gusties are now at a 25-2 record with their most recent win.
The Women’s basketball team is now headed to the NCAA DIII Selection Show. Gustavus plays on Friday vs Ohio Wesleyan at 5:15 p.m. CST on the campus of UW-Whitewater. If they win, they will advance to the round of 32 and play Saturday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m. CST vs. the winner of the UW-Whitewater/Webster game, which will be played following the Gustie game on Friday evening.
“I feel good about where our team is at, and also know that anything can happen in NCAA tournament play. That is why they call it [March] Madness. We are just going to take it one step at a time, and enjoy each moment we have together,” Kelly said.
“We are feeling confident about how we’re playing right now and it helps that we have lots of experience. After being there last year, we are ready to prove ourselves and will be coming out with lots of energy and ready to play on the big stage!” Baranick said.
Good luck to the Gusties in their endeavors in trying to bring glory and honor to Gustavus’s name. History has already been made this amazing season with record-breaking wins. It will soon be seen and decided just how many records will be broken and championship titles will be won for the Gusties.