Polar Bears plow through Wartburg

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Bowdoin's Abby Kelly led the offensive showcase for the Polar Bears with 23 points in 22 minutes.
Photo by Cory Chuchna, d3photography.com

For the second season in a row, the NCAA Division III women’s basketball championship game will be an all NESCAC affair.

Bowdoin blasted previously unbeaten Wartburg 90-62 to set up a rematch with defending national champions Amherst in Saturday’s Tournament finale.

Bowdoin opened the game with a flurry of three pointers and inside scoring from Cordelia Stewart, taking a 28-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. Bowdoin’s guards used their quickness to penetrate Wartburg’s perimeter defense and dish to Stewart for open looks near the rim or kick out for open threes.  Kate Kerrigan finished Bowdoin’s first period with a baseline drive for a reverse layup off the glass as time expired.

After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Wartburg All-American Katie Sommer got going in the second quarter with a three on the Knights’ first possession. She played through the second quarter despite having two fouls and put up seven points. The Polar Bears also started to rack up the fouls with Kerrigan, Stewart and starting point guard Taylor Choate picking up their second foul during the second quarter. But Kelly picked up the offensive slack with 16 points in the first half, including 4-for-6 from three, and the Polar Bears led 46-31 at the halftime break.

In the third period Wartburg came out of the locker room and energized the several hundred fans that made the 90-minute drive to Rochester, Minn. from Waverly, Iowa. Kristie Sommer opened the second half with a three and then Miranda Murphy scored consecutive layups to pull the Knights within 48-38 and chase Bowdoin into a timeout.

Then the Polar Bears awoke from their halftime hibernation.

Taylor Choate scored 12 points in the second half as Bowdoin ran away from Wartburg.
Photo by Cory Chuchna, d3photography.com

Coming out of the break, Bowdoin got the ball to Kelly who missed a three but the Polar Bears grabbed the offensive rebound and found Kelly for a score in the paint. Kelly hit another jumper on Bowdoin’s next possession, Lauren Petit nailed a three and Maddie Hasson converted a three-point play to push the Polar Bears’ advantage back to 58-40. The Polar Bears finished the third quarter with a commanding 72-49 lead.

The Polar Bears kept pouring it on in the fourth quarter, scoring seven straight as Kerrigan and Petit added Bowdoin’s ninth and tenth 3-pointers of the night. The Polar Bears pushed the lead to 30 before the teams pulled their starters.

Katie Sommer paced Wartburg (31-1) with 16 points.

Bowdoin (29-2) shot 49 percent from the floor, made 10 three pointers and made all 12 free throw attempts. Kelly finished with 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting and Kerrigan scored 11 points, including the 1000th of her career, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out assists for Bowdoin (29-2). Choate scored 12 points, all in the second half, and Petit chipped in 16.

"We play free. In every game there are conversations about shot selection. However, I think part of their confidence comes from their ability to know that I trust them and just to play -- not to overthink offense," said Bowdoin head coach Adrienne Shibles.

"In practice every week we compete so hard," added Kerrigan. "We go at it. We push each other defensively andI think that really makes our offense thrive because every week we face such a tough defense, tougher than what we end up facing in games sometimes."

Bowdoin’s victory also ensures a flawless performance by the NESCAC in the Tournament overall. The Polar Bears, Amherst and Tufts went a combined 12-0 with a 302-point combined margin of victory that included double-digit wins over the teams ranked 2, 3, 10, 15, 16 and 22 nationally.

Bowdoin will face Amherst for the national championship at 7:30 pm CT/8:30 pm ET on Saturday . Amherst defeated Bowdoin 49-45 in the teams’ only meeting on Jan. 27.

"We're really excited about this chance to see Amherst again," Shibles said. "We were really rooting for them because we want to exorcise all of our demons and we see this as a great opportunity to get that win after losing to them in their gym."