UW-Stevens Point wins defensive battle
By Mark Dehaan
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Facing off in the opening round of the NCAA III Tournament, the Franklin College Grizzlies played the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers at Van Noord Arena in Grand Rapids, MI, Friday afternoon. In a defensive battle, Wisconsin-Stevens Point came out on top 61-58. The Grizzlies, winners of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, came into the game ranked 14th in the nation and 25-2 overall. The Pointers, winners of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, were ranked 11th overall and held a 23-4 record heading into the contest.
UW-Stevens Point jumped out to a 7-2 lead on five points from junior guard and WIAC player of the year Sam Barber. Franklin closed the gap to 7-6 before a 6-0 Pointers run expanded the UWSP lead to 13-6 with just over 15 minutes to go.
Franklin then cut the gap to 16-14 on a jumper by senior forward Kasey Dollens. The Pointers responded with an 10-2 run to build their lead to 26-16 with 3:35 remaining. Over the final three-and-a -half minutes, the Grizzlies showed the same resolve that had earned them their HCAC automatic qualifying bid as the finished the half on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 28-28 at the half.
At the half, UW-Stevens Point was led by Barber with nine points and senior Ashley Averkamp who had eight points and five rebounds. The Grizzlies were led on offense by junior center Jessica Prewett who had eight points. Franklin's leading scorer, senior guard Sarah Condra, was held to just two points at the break.
The Pointers started off the second half much like the first, jumping out on a 10-4 run out of the break to build a 38-32 advantage. Minutes later, a three-point shot by Barber gave the Pointers a 45-35 lead.
With just over five minutes remaining and with the Pointers on a six minute stretch without a field goal, the Grizzlies drew to within three points at 49-46.
With a minute and a half remaining, the margin remained at three with the score at 55-52. Over the final minute, the Pointers iced the game on free-throws, hitting 6-of-6, to earn the 61-58 victory and move on to the second round.
The Pointers were led by Barber, who scored 18 points and added ten rebounds. Averkamp finished the game with 16 points, seven boards, and seven blocks. As a team, UWSP shot 23-of-28 from the free-throw line.
"I thought it was a great game, two quality teams battling it out – a very physical game. We did what we needed to do to survive and advance," said UWSP Head Coach Shirley Egner. "They pushed us to our limits and it did become a defensive struggle – they fought very hard all the way to the end. Our kids hit the free throws, and it definitely takes our entire team to be successful."
Leading the Grizzlies on offense was Prewett with 18 points. Annie Tarkington added 14 points and seven assists for Franklin, while Condra finished with eight points, four rebounds and four assists.
"It was a tough battle – very, very physical. You have to get it done on the defensive end. We kind of knew it was going to be a defensive battle," said Franklin Head Coach Kim Eiler. "When there are possessions that are crucial, and it's that close of a game, there were just one or two possessions we didn't capitalize on."
The Pointers advance to face either Calvin in the second round Saturday night at 7:30 pm. The game will be played at Calvin's Van Noord Arena.