UWSP women’s upset bid falls short against second-ranked George Fox
The 20th-ranked University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP)
women’s basketball team took second-ranked and reigning National Runner-up
George Fox (Ore.)
to the wire in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament at the Berg
Gym Saturday, March 5.
Following a 65-50 victory over DePauw (Ind.) (22-7) in the first round Friday,
March 4, the Pointers (21-8) rallied from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit
against unbeaten George Fox (29-0) and led 56-55 with left Saturday.
However, George Fox knocked down a three-pointer with 1:37
remaining to take a 60-57 lead, and held a 62-59 advantage with 3.3 seconds
left, when it picked off a UWSP pass near midcourt and ran out the rest of the
clock to advance to the Sweet 16 with a 62-59 victory.
“What a great game by two really good teams,” said UWSP
women’s basketball head coach Shirley Egner. “Obviously, we’re disappointed
we’re not playing next weekend.
“There’s a reason we’re not playing next weekend, and it’s
not because of heart and grit and determination and effort,” she said. “I’m so
proud of our kids.”
“Wisconsin-Stevens Point was really well prepared,” said
George Fox head coach Michael Meek. “They came out ready to go, they made some
big shots early, and I thought they played a great game.
“We knew coming in here, and anytime we’re going on the road
and the deeper you get, it’s going to be tough,” he said. “And thankfully it
turned out our way.”
After finishing third in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate
Athletic Conference (WIAC) during the regular season, the Pointers received a
Pool C (at-large) bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament and were selected to
host for the first and second round last weekend.
The Pointers opened with DePauw Friday night, where they led
15-11 at the end of the first quarter and carried a 26-22 lead into halftime.
UWSP used an 8-2 run to start the second half and build a
34-24 lead with 6:20 to go in the third quarter, but DePauw closed to within
41-40 with 12 seconds left, before sophomore guard Mickey Roland hit a
three-pointer with five seconds remaining to give the Pointers a 44-40 lead
going into the fourth quarter.
That was the start of a 12-3 run that extended UWSP’s lead
to 53-43 with 5:15 left in the game and DePauw never got closer than eight the
rest of the way, as the Pointers went on to a 65-50 win to advance to the
second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Junior guard Lauren Anklam finished with 12 points and five
assists and senior post player Allie Miceli had 10 points to lead UWSP, which
never trailed in the game and outscored DePauw 21-10 in the fourth quarter to
seal the win.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Egner. “I’ve got to give
(DePauw) a lot of credit for their effort, and we just couldn’t seem to get any
separation, and then the last few minutes of that fourth quarter, we were able
to get a bigger lead and hold on and hit some free throws going down the
“So I’m really, really proud of our kids,” she said. “It’s
the first time playing in the NCAA Tournament in a couple of years, and I just
felt like they held their own.”
“It’s really exciting,” said Anklam, a former D.C. Everest
High School standout,
of playing in the NCAA Tournament at home. “Obviously, it’s really nice for our
parents, but also our fans, to not have to travel, drive eight hours or hop on
a plane to come watch us play.
“And we play better at home as a team,” she said. “So
obviously that’s a big help to us as well.”
The win set up a second-round matchup Saturday night with
second-ranked George Fox, which won 64-54 over St. Norbert (21-5) in the other
first round game Friday at Berg Gym.
The Pointers got off to a fast start Saturday, as they used
a pair of three-pointers from Anklam and a pair of layups from senior post
player Joann Wolfenberg to jump out to a 10-1 lead with to go in the first quarter, and held a
21-12 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Despite committing nine turnovers against George Fox’s
pressure defense and scoring only two baskets from the field in the first eight
minutes of the second quarter, the Pointers led 28-20 with to go in the first half, when George Fox
went on a 7-1 run to pull within 29-27 at halftime.
“We got out early, they fought back, and held us to eight in
the second quarter,” said Egner. “But we were still up at half.”
George Fox took the lead for the first time at 39-38 on a
three-pointer with 4:48 to go in the third quarter, while the game was tied
41-41 with 3:12 left, when George Fox used back-to-back three-pointers and a
three-point play to open up a 50-41 lead with 1:50 to go in the third quarter.
George Fox carried its 50-41 lead into the fourth quarter,
where Wolfenberg scored on layups on the Pointers’ first three possessions to
pull the team within 52-47 with 7:19 left in the game, before sophomore forward
Taylor Barrett scored on a pair of free throws, a jumper and a layup on the
next three possessions to give UWSP a 53-52 lead with 6:07 to play.
“I’m just so proud of our kids to fight back in that fourth
quarter and have it go back and forth,” said Egner. “And really it comes down
to a one-possession game.”
“In the past it’s been an issue for us staying together,”
said Wolfenberg. “And I think we really did stay together for 40 minutes.”
George Fox senior forward Justine Benner ended the Pointers’
12-2 run with a three-point play that gave the team a 55-53 lead with 5:46
remaining, while UWSP used a free throw from Miceli and a layup from Wolfenberg
to take a 56-55 lead with 2:43 left.
Benner countered with a layup to put George Fox ahead 57-56
with 2:10 to go, and after sophomore guard Lexi Roland made 1-of-2 free throws
to tie the game at 57-57 with 2:02 remaining, George Fox senior wing Sammy
Naluai buried a three-pointer from the right corner with 1:37 left to give the
team a 60-57 lead.
Following a pair of UWSP turnovers and a pair of missed
shots from George Fox, Barrett scored on a layup with 11 seconds left to pull
the Pointers within 60-59.
However, UWSP was under the team foul limit and had to foul
three times to send George Fox to the free-throw line, where it knocked down a
pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds left to increase its lead to 62-59.
The Pointers had one final chance to tie, but the inbound
pass from Barrett was picked off at midcourt and George Fox ran out the rest of
the clock to advance to the Sweet 16 with a 62-59 win.
Wolfenberg finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, Anklam
and Barrett each had nine points and Miceli added seven points and eight
rebounds for UWSP, which committed 27 turnovers and shot 18-of-29 from the
free-throw line in the 62-59 loss.
“It’s about staying locked in and poised and focused for 40
minutes,” she said. “And I would say we were locked in and poised for the
majority of the game. But there were some possessions where we left shooters
open, and the scouting report said they were three-point shooters. And we left
“In pre-game prep we talked about having composure and poise
throughout the game and I think we lost that coming down the stretch,” said
Miceli. “We handled it really well in that first quarter, that second quarter
killed us, and then even down the stretch in the fourth quarter, that was an
“But I think that it was a team effort,” she said. “And we
battled back in that fourth quarter.”
The loss was the final game for UWSP’s two seniors in Miceli
and Wolfenberg, who helped the team overcome the loss of junior guard and
leading scorer Autumn Hennes for the season due to an injury Jan. 9, as the
Pointers went on to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two years
and earned the right to host for the first two rounds.
“They’re great, great, great young women,” said Egner.
“Great leadership, and they just really did whatever we asked them to do.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Allie and Jo,” she said. “And
as a program, we’re really going to miss them.”