Wartburg joins three playoff vets in Final Four

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Michela North and Tufts muscled past Alexix Roman and Scranton for the Jumbos' third straight Elite 8 victory.
Photo by Bob Sanchuk, Two Sticks Studios

Thomas More and Tufts punched return tickets to the national semifinals while Amherst ended its brief two-year layoff in convincing fashion against Rochester and Wartburg punched its first-ever ticket to the women's basketball Final Four.

Similar to last season, Washington U. played Thomas More close in the sectional round of the tournament. But just like last season, the Saints held off the Bears, this time beating them 88-72 to keep their perfect season going.

Thomas More All-American Sydney Moss went to bench with four fouls late in the third quarter, and a moment later Washington U guard Rachel Sondag silenced the crowd with a three, leaving the Bears just six back entering the final quarter. With Moss sitting, Abby Owings took over, scoring 16 in the final frame, including four straight threes to put the game away.

Owings finished with 26 points and Moss tallied 23 points and 11 rebounds, despite the foul trouble, for the Saints (30-0). Sondag scored 23 points off the bench for Washington U (23-5). The teams shot a combined 53 percent from three (21-for-40). Thomas More heads to the Final Four for the second consecutive season.

Tufts repelled Scranton's fourth quarter rally and Melissa Baptista errupted for eight points late as the Jumbos pulled away from the Royals, 57-48.

The Jumbos' stifling defense held Scranton to 24 percent shooting in the first half and Tufts held a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter. But the Royals scored 10 straight, capped by Alexix Roman's layup with 6:53 to play, to pull even at 45.

Tufts called a 30-second timeout to regroup and then scored the next 10 points to quiet the Long Center crowd. Baptista hit a midrange jumper to give Tufts a two-point lead and was fouled on the shot. She missed the bonus free throw but grabbed the offensive rebound to set up a three by Josie Lee. Then Baptista hit a step-back three and converted a layup on a breakaway steal to put the game away.

Baptista finished with 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting, including 5-for-5 from three. Michela North notched another double-double with 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. Tufts (27-3) will make its third straight trip to the national semifinals. Alexix Roman posted 13 points and 13 rebounds for Scranton (30-1).

Amherst wasted little time in joining its conference mates as Amherst roared out to 31-17 lead over Rochester after one period and went on to win comfortably, 78-50. Rochester briefly took the lead on a Laura Deming three midway through the first period before Amherst scored 10 of the next 12 points to take the lead back for good. Amherst put the game away by holding the Yellowjackets to 3-for-12 shooting in the third period while the team formerly known as the Lord Jeffs shot 63 percent from the floor. Amherst converted 19 Rochester turnovers into 25 points. 

Ali Doswell had another good night, scoring 14 points for Amherst (30-1) but her sister Meredith did the most damage. She poured in 24 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots. Alexandra Leslie tallied 10 points and seven rebounds for Rochester (23-6). After missing the last two national semifinals, Amherst will make its sixth trip to the Final Four.

In St. Paul, it was Kailey Kladivo, who could have been competing in the Division III indoor track and field championships today, who came up big for Wartburg, scoring 22 points off the bench for the Knights in an 80-74 win over Texas-Tyler. 

Wartburg (23-7) shot 7-for-11 in the fourth quarter and weathered Texas-Tyler's run. The Patriots (30-2) cut the Knights' lead to one point, then two points midway through the final period, but Wartburg answered with a 7-0 run, capped by a long 3-pointer from Miranda Murphy, who finished with 16 points. Wartburg sealed its first trip to the Final Four with 6-for-6 shooting from the line down the stretch. Wartburg gave the IIAC its first national semifinalist since Central won the national championship in 1993.