MIAC Champs!

Zachary Tlusty-

The Women’s Basketball team won their third MIAC Championship in a row this past Saturday, beating Concordia by a score of 66-38. The two teams had split the season series, in which both teams held home court going into this Championship Game.

It was Championship weekend at Gustavus, as three high-stakes playoff games took place on Saturday. The energy on campus was electric as students were looking forward to a fun weekend of sports at the Lund Center.

The Gusties jumped out to an early lead as they took control out of the gates and ended the first quarter up with a score of 21-10. Gustavus held the Cobbers to two made field goals and five free throws, while Gustavus made nine shots, and did not have any opportunities at the stripe in the first quarter

“With the help of our in-depth scouting report created by our coaches, we were prepared for what Concordia wanted to do and how we could stop them. Our defensive pressure and effort are what really helped put the game away. We forced Concordia out of their comfort zone and sped the game up faster than they could handle. We kept them from getting second-chance opportunities on the glass and forced a lot of turnovers that led to easy scores on our end. We were prepared for Concordia to run in transition, as that is where they thrive, so we matched up quickly, prevented quick shots, and forced them to try and create in the half-court. Lastly, keeping them off the free throw line was key, as they are the best free throw shooting team in the country,” Junior Morgan Kelly said.

Gustavus would not let off the throttle, as they would dominate the paint in the second quarter. The Gusties scored 12 of their 18 points from close. The Gustavus bench was crucial in the second quarter contributing eight of the 18 points in the quarter for the team, while the Cobbers bench was only able to contribute two points throughout the quarter.

This is a testament to how deep this Gustavus team is when it comes to having players who can contribute at such a high level. The team does not need to rely on a single player to score, and they have no problem making the extra passes for easy buckets. In total, Gustavus assisted on 19 of the 28 made baskets in the Championship game.

“The chemistry on and off the court has been a huge part of our success throughout the past three years. We have also accumulated a team that has individually bought into what our goals and aspirations are. We all share a connection and love for one another that is unmatched. We are truly happy and supportive of one another in a way that I have never experienced. This allows us to flourish on and off the court,” Senior Emma Kniefel said.

The Gusties refused to let the Cobbers back into this game, as they were up by as much as 30 points halfway through the third quarter, thanks to a three-pointer from First-Year Emily Bowron. With the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, Head Coach Laurie Kelly was able to empty the bench and take the air out of the ball. Gustavus turned in a dominating performance and would take home their third straight MIAC Championship with a score of 66-38.

“We didn’t change our game plan with Concordia. The two times we played them, we did not play anywhere near our best basketball. The past few weeks have been some of the best games we have played all season, all because we were doing what we do. Our mentality is always to play ‘Gustie Basketball.’ We knew that if we executed on the fundamental parts of our game, especially on the defensive end, we would have no problem taking Concordia down. Our coaches prepared us well for moments like these, and the pressure of being in a conference championship game for the third year in a row only got our team more excited,” Kelly said.

Leading the scoresheet for Gustavus was Kniefel, who tallied 15 points and six rebounds. Junior Rachel Kawiecki scored 12 points and Senior Izzy Quick tallied 6 points and collected 10 rebounds.

“My teammates and coaches are the ones that allow me to play the way I do. I know that my teammates have my back and that if I’m not making shots right away to just keep shooting,” Kneifel said.

With this win, the Gusties clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament. Their matchup in the round of 64 will be against Trine University. A school out of Angola, Indiana, they beat Hope College in their Conference Championship to guarantee their spot in the tournament.

“We are playing good basketball at the right time, we are going to control what we can control and we feel good about the draw. Playing Rhode Island early in the season helped us because they are one of the top seeds in the tournament. It gave us experience and shows us that any given night we can beat anybody,” Coach Kelly said.

All season, the Gustavus Women’s team had big goals from the start: not just simply making the tournament or winning the MIAC. No, they had thoughts of winning the whole thing. This team wants to make a run for the National Championship.

“From the beginning of this year, we’ve had aspirations to not only win the MIAC and make the NCAA Tournament but potentially contend for a national title. This team is so special, and I hope now as we enter the national tournament to continue our success,” Coach Kelly said.

The Gusties will be facing off against the Thunder today, March 1st, at 5:00 p.m. in Oshkosh. So, make sure to continue supporting your Gusties as they try to make a run for the national championship this year!

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