The Carthage women's basketball team (15-11, 8-6 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin) ended its season Friday, Feb. 27 with 65-42 loss to No. 17 Wheaton College (Ill., 23-3, 12-2 CCIW) in the semifinals of the CCIW Women's Basketball Tournament at King Arena in Wheaton, Ill. The Thunder, this year's conference champions, are the top-seeded team in the tournament and the Lady Reds the fourth seed.
In the other semifinal contest, second-seeded and No. 36 North Central College (22-4, 10-4) edged third-seeded Elmhurst College (16-10, 9-5), 89-87. Wheaton will take on North Central (Ill.) in Saturday's tournament-championship game, with the winner receiving the league's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship.
The first half lacked any kind of offensive flow, and Wheaton led by a point at halftime, 23-22. The Thunder opened the second half with a 9-3 run to take a seven-point lead, 32-25, at 16:45. The Thunder took their largest lead at 14 points, 41-27, at 11:05 on a free throw by NatalieRose Brogan that capped a 16-2 run. The Lady Reds got it back to eight points, 43-35, at 7:59, but the Thunder came back with seven unanswered points to take a 15-point lead, 50-35, at 6:13. Wheaton went on to win by 23 points, 65-42, as the Thunder out-scored the Lady Reds, 42-20, in the second half.
Wheaton shot 35 percent (20-57), including six-of-19 three-pointers, while Carthage shot just 26 percent (12-47), including just one-of-15 from three-point range. The Thunder got to free-throw line 25 times and made 19, while the Lady Reds connected on 17-of-33. Carthage won the rebounding battle by a 43-41 margin, but the Lady Reds turned the ball over 18 times to just eight for the Thunder.
Katie McDaniels led Wheaton with 15 points on just two-of-six field goals but a perfect 10-of-10 free throws, along with seven rebounds and seven assists. Ellie Zeller had 13 points and five rebounds. Alexis Hahn (Jr., Itasca, Ill./Roselle-Lake Park) was the only Carthage player in double figures with 21 points on six-of-14 field goals, along with nine-of-14 free throws, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. Hahn was named first-team All-CCIW earlier in the day.
"You have to be physically and mentally tough to win a game like this on the road" said Carthage coach Tim Bernero, "I thought we did things well enough in the first half to be in a position to win the game. In the second half, we just started to miss assignments. When was the last time you saw us give up breakaway layups with no safety player in place? They started wheeling the ball down court, and we got stuck not being able to score. There was a lot of pressure on Alexis Hahn to score, and she had some good looks. We were awful at the free-throw line all night, and had we made some free throws in the first half, we might have led by eight points or so, which might have changed the flow of the game.
"We feel good about the future," concluded Bernero. "We'll get Gracie Sanchez back from an injury that caused her to miss the entire season. We were a little thin in the post this year because of that. Recruiting is going well. It was a disjointed season in a lot of ways, but after being really good for several years, a season like this is sort of humbling. We'll fix some things that need to be fixed and improve on some things for next year."