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NW Iowa ends IWU's season

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

A fast start to each half for Northwestern (Iowa) spelled doom for Indiana Wesleyan Friday night in the Round of 16 at the NAIA Division II women’s national basketball tournament in Sioux City, Iowa.

The 20th-ranked Wildcats stayed in the fight, but would eventually bow out of the tourney with an 83-70 loss to the No. 4 Red Raiders. 

Northwestern (28-4) hit 6-of-7 from 3-point range and with less than three minutes off the second quarter clock and led Indiana Wesleyan, 31-15.

Wildcats’ coach Ethan Whaley used a timeout to rally his ladies, and rally they did.

Carly Lange knocked down a 3-pointer, Nicole Ignasiak made a steal and Margot Woughter hit another ‘3’. Woughter then grabbed a defensive rebound and converted three free throws after being fouled on a long-range attempt and the nine-point burst took 1:15 and brought IWU within 31-24 and also energized the Wildcats for the rest of the quarter.

Woughter scored 13 of her 15 first half points in the second quarter and hit a triple 41 seconds before halftime to pull IWU within 41-38, but Northwestern scored the final three points, including a rebound basket at the buzzer by Haley Birks to take a 44-38 lead to intermission.  

“We knew they were going to make a run. They’re so good. They’re explosive at every position,” IWU coach Ethan Whaley told a local radio station. “I was so proud of our resolve. I thought that second quarter we did a good job of disrupting them offensively and we didn’t turn it over. They got a handful of opportunities in transition because of our turnovers, but once we settled in we kind of got that figured out and made a heck of a run.” 

The Red Raiders opened the second half much like they did the first, and a 13-4 run for Northwestern opened up a 57-42 lead. Katie Key hit two free throws and Woughter added another triple to quickly draw the Wildcats back to a 10-point deficit, but Northwestern answered with the next eight points to move in front 65-47.

IWU would get no closer than 11 with just over three minutes remaining and then again in the last minute. 

Woughter was sensational in her first national tournament appearance. After scoring a game-high 26 in the Wildcats’ 84-64 win over Bryan (Tennessee) on Thursday, the Traverse City, Michigan, native tied her career high with 27 points Friday.  Woughter also dished out a game-high equaling five assists.

“When she is feeling it there’s not many hotter shooters or playmakers in the country than Margo Woughter,” Whaley said. “What a showing out here these last couple of games for Margot....her turnovers were a little bit high but with the pressure and everything she was seeing, the future is really bright for her. She scored it well but she led us so well.”

Three Wildcats scored in double-digits. Senior Nicole Ignasiak finished her career with a 16-point, eight rebound effort while junior Carly Lange added 10 points, five rebounds and two assists. Senior Katie Key added five points, two boards and also had five assists. Sophomore Dayton Groninger scored nine points and had four rebounds. Junior Elaina Ededuwa finished with three points and six boards.

Kassidy DeJong topped Northwestern with 20 points, while Sammy Blum added 17, hitting all five of her three point attempts.

“I’ve to give credit, Kassidy DeJong, we knew she was good. She’s really good,” Whaley said. “She scores in so many ways and that’s one of the only matchups I can recall all year that Katie Key didn’t dominate that matchup. Northwestern did a great job of screening for her. Katie got drilled every time.” 

The Wildcats made 24-of-55 (43.6 percent) from the field, and 6-of-19 from 3-point range. Northwestern made 28-of-62 (45 percent) on field goals, but shot a sizzling 80 percent (8-for-10) from long distance.

The Red Raiders connected on 19-of-24 free throws while the ‘Cats made 16-of-22. Northwestern won the battle of the boards, 37-33. IWU had 18 turnovers to Northwestern’s 10. 

Indiana Wesleyan finished the season 21-13.