Illinois Wesleyan Wins the CCIW Tournament, 68-67, over Carthage
The Carthage College women's basketball team (20-7), lost the title game of the CCIW Women's Basketball Tournament, 68-67, to top-seeded and No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan (22-5) on Saturday, Feb. 25 at the IWU Shirk Center in Bloomington, Ill. With the win the Titans claimed the league's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship.
Carthage hopes to receive an at-large berth to the championship. The NCAA will announce the 64-team field on Monday, Feb. 27 at 1:30 p.m., CST at www.ncaa.com. All of the first-round games will be played on Friday, March 2 and the second-round contests on Saturday, March 3. The sectionals will take place on Friday-Saturday, March 9-10, with the national championship at Hope College's DeVos Fieldhouse in Holland, Mich., on Friday-Saturday, March 16-17.
The game was worthy of a tournament-championship contest from start to finish. Illinois Wesleyan inched out to a six-point first-half lead, 21-15, at 8:56. After the Lady Reds whittled the margin down to three, 21-18, at 7:05, a three-pointer by Olivia Lett at 6:14 put the Titans back up by six, 24-18. Carthage closed to within two, 29-27, at 2:03 and trailed by three at the break, 32-29. A three-pointer by Allison Groessl at 18:31 second half tied the game, 34-34, and the Lady Reds took s 36-34 lead at 18:06 on a layup by Stephanie Kuzmanic. Back-to-back three-pointers by Dani Ripkey gave Carthage a four-point lead, 42-38, at 16:12. A layup and jumper by Diana Jacklin upped the Lady Reds' lead to six, 46-40, at 14:29.
Illinois Wesleyan battled back to tie the game, 49-49, at 10:24 on three-point play by Karen Solari, and the Titans took a four-point lead, 55-51, at 8:17. Another three-point play by Solari at 6:31 made it a seven-point game, 58-51. Cailee Corcoran went to work at the five-minute mark, scoring seven points on three layups and a free throw to bring Carthage to within two, 62-60, at 4:05. A layup by Dani Ripkey at 3:43 tied the game, 62-62, and Haley Stercic's three-pointer at 3:08 gave the Lady Reds a three-point lead, 65-62. The Titans came back again to take a one-point lead, 66-65, with 49 seconds to play on a layup by Olivia Lett. Diana Jacklin's layup at 37 seconds put the Lady Reds up by a point, 67-66, but Solari answered with a layup at 21 seconds to give IWU at 68-67 edge.
With 13.9 seconds left, Carthage took its final timeout and inbounded the ball at midcourt. Stephanie Kuzmanic turned the ball over, Karen Solari recovered and passed the ball to Brittany Hasselbring, who was fouled by Cailee Corcoran with 3.2 seconds remaining. Hasselbring missed both free throws. Jacklin rebounded and tried to dribble up court but was unable get much past the Titans' free-throw line as time ran out.
Illinois Wesleyan shot 46 percent (27-59), including four-of-16 from three-point range, while Carthage shot 48 percent (26-54), including five-of-19 three-pointers. The Titans converted 10-of-17 from the free-throw line, while Carthage made 10-of-15. The Lady Reds had a narrow, 35-33 rebounding edge but turned the ball over 17 times to 13 for the Titans. Three Illinois Wesleyan players scored in double figures. Olivia Lett scored 23 points with seven rebounds and seven assists. Brittany Hasselbring had 12 points, and Karen Solari added 10 points. Diana Jacklin (Sr., Berwyn, Ill./Morton West) led Carthage with a game-high and a career-high 26 points on 13-of-21 field goals, along with a game-high 11 rebounds. Dani Ripkey added 12 points on four-of-10 shooting, including three-of-nine three-pointers, along with four rebounds and five assists.
"We tried to clear some space for Diana Jacklin on that last possession," said Carthage coach Tim Bernero, "but we missed connections. We knew we had to get the ball to her. The game went back and forth. Both teams made nice runs to seemingly take control of things, and both teams battled back. Both teams played well, but the last bounce went to them. Unlike the loss down here in January, we felt we had a little more control of this game, but it was still another one of those one-possession games. If we could have stretched things out just a little, it might have been a different outcome. I'm on the NCAA regional committee, but even though I'm in the middle of the process, I'm still not sure where we stand. I'll check some scores tonight from around the region and give it my best guess, but I don't know. I'll know late Sunday night, one way or another, and I guess I'll either be hiding from everyone or telling them, quietly, that we have a meeting on Monday."
Carthage, seeded third, opened play in the tournament on Friday, Feb. 24 with a 70-64 win over second-seeded Wheaton College (Ill., 18-8, 11-3 CCIW) in a semifinal game, with Illinois Wesleyan defeating fourth-seeded Millikin University (15-11, 7-7 CCIW), 96-75, in the other semifinal contest.