Dominant second half pushes Wheaton (Ill.) past Carthage in CCIW Tournament Semifinals

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Wheaton, Ill. - The Thunder women's basketball team used a dominant second half and some excellent guard play to earn a 65-42 victory over Carthage on Friday night in a CCIW Tournament Semifinal game. Leading by just a point at the halftime break, Wheaton opened the second half on an 18-5 run that included a nine-minute field goal drought for the Lady Reds. A 13-1 run later in the half put the game out of reach and pushed Wheaton on to Saturday's CCIW Tournament Championship game. Wheaton improved to 23-3 overall with the win while Carthage finishes its season 15-11. Wheaton will host North Central at 7 PM on Saturday night with the winner earning the CCIW's automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Both teams struggled from the field for the game with Wheaton shooting 35.1% (20-57) from the field and 31.6% (6-19) from the three-point line. Wheaton did make 19-of-25 (76%) free throw attempts. Carthage shot 25.5% (12-47) from the field including just 15.4% (4-26) in the second half. The Lady Reds were just 1-15 (6.7%) from the three-point line and 51.5% (17-33) at the free throw stripe. Carthage narrowly won the rebound battle 43-41 with a slight 12-11 edge in offensive rebounds. Wheaton had 13 assists compared to eight turnovers while Carthage had just seven assists compared to 18 turnovers.

16328 Similar to Wheaton's previous two games against Carthage, the Thunder got off to a slow start, trailing 4-0 at the first media timeout and 6-1 before an Ellie Zeller three-pointer sparked the offense. Wheaton took its first lead off the game on an offensive rebound and putback by Sarah Drury to give Wheaton a 12-10 lead at the 9:03 mark of the first half. Wheaotn pushed the lead to as many as five on a Katie McDaniels lay-up with 2:06 to play in the first half but Carthage scored the last four points of the half to cut Wheaton's lead to 23-22 at halftime. The Lady Reds scored 16 of their 22 first half points in the pait, outscoring Wheaton 16-4.

Carthage opened the second half by tying the game at 23 and again at 25 on a jumper by Alexis Hahn with 18:08 to play but that would be their last field goal for over a nine-minute stretch. Wheaton ran off seven straight points punctuated by a Chantal Meacham three-pointer to take its biggest lead of the night at 32-25. After a pair of Carthge free throws, Wheaton would run off nine more points unanswered points including four straight by Ellie Zeller (PICTURED RIGHT) to take a 41-27 lead. Carthage snapped its field goal streak with a lay-up at the 9:32 mark and the Lady Reds cut the lead down to eight points with a three-pointer with 8:03 to play, cutting the scored to 43-35.

NatalieRose Brogan answered the Carthage three with her second three-pointer of the game on the ensuing possession to spark a quick 7-0 Thunder run over a two minute stretch and push the Thunder lead to 50-35. Wheaton pushed the lead as high as 24 points in the final minute of the game before finishing off a 65-42 victory.

Katie McDaniels scored a game-high 15 points with seven rebounds and seven assists. Ellie Zeller scored 13 points with five rebounds. Chantal Meacham and NatalieRose Brogan each finished with seven points with Meacham grabbing seven rebounds. Sarah Drury finished with five points and three rebounds. Alexis Hahn led Carthage with game-highs in points (21) and rebounds (12).

Wheaton will host North Central at 7 PM on Saturday night in the CCIW Tournament Championship game. North Central advanced with an 89-87 victory over Elmhurst on Friday night.