Wash. U. reaches 10th Final Four
Bears win after falling to Maroons twice in regular season
CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. – No. 12 Washington University in St. Louis continued its run through the postseason and clinched its third consecutive trip to the Final Four with a 63-58 victory against No. 6 Chicago in the NCAA Division III sectional final on Saturday night.
The defending national champion Bears had to defeat four consecutive top-10 teams to earn a return trip to the Final Four, facing the toughest road of any team in the tournament. Washington University has now advanced to a Division III record 10 Final Fours and improved to 10-1 all-time in the NCAA sectional finals.
Three players scored in double figures for Washington University as the Bears avenged a pair of losses to Chicago from earlier in the season. Senior Kathryn Berger led the Bears with 14 points while classmate Alex Hoover chipped in 13 and junior Brianne Monahan scored a career-high 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
Chicago, which was appearing in the NCAA sectional championship for the first time in school history, had its 21-game winning streak dating back to Dec. 13 snapped with the loss. Meghan Herrick led the Maroons with 27 points and was the only player to score in double figures for Chicago.
Washington University started the game shooting just 1-of-13 and hit only one field goal through the first eight minutes of the game, but the Bears found themselves trailing just 11-2 when junior Claire Schaeperkoetter sliced through the lane for a lay-up to end the field goal drought and spark a 7-0 run to get her team back into the game.
After Morgan Herrick hit a 3-pointer to put Chicago up 11-2, the Maroons converted just one field goal over the next nine minutes as Monahan led the Bears all the way back, eventually hitting a short baseline jumper at the 6:49 mark to put the Red and Green in front, 16-15. Monahan scored seven points, including a 3-pointer, during the five-minute, 14-4 run that gave the Bears their first lead of the game.
Chicago’s shooting woes continued from that point as the Maroons hit just three field goals over the final 15 minutes of the first half and Washington University led by as many as 14 points, 33-19. Chicago opened the game shooting 4-of-6 but managed to hit just three of its next 22 field goal attempts.
Berger caught fire during a 14-0 WUSTL run over a stretch of 4:40 when she knocked down three buckets including a pair of 3-pointers, the last of which put the Bears ahead by a 30-17 margin and Monahan hit her second 3 of the half with just 45 seconds to play to give the Bears a 14-point cushion.
After the 1-of-13 start, the Bears were 11-of-17 shooting over the final 12 minutes of the first half and finished the period shooting 40 percent from the field while limiting Chicago to just 25 percent (7-of-28) shooting. Berger, 10 points, and Monahan, 10 points, bothscored in double figures in the first half while Alex Hoover had four points, five assists and five rebounds.
With five assists in the opening period, Alex Hoover moved past Sarah Schell for first place in school history and now has a school-record 430 career assists heading into next week's Final Four.
Chicago found its offense to start the second half, opening the period on a 14-6 run while shooting 7-of-11 from the field. Jenna Lillemoe drove through the paint for a lay-up with 13:45 remaining to pull the Maroons within one, 39-38, but Washington University weathered the Maroons’ hot start and responded with an 13-3 run of its own to take back control of the game.
Five different players scored for Washington University over the nine minutes of game time that saw the Bears rebuild a double-digit lead. Sophomore Kristin Anda hit a 10-foot jumper in the lane to start the run, Alex Hoover and Berger each converted a pair of free throws and senior Hannah Cusworth banked in a short jumper to put Washington U. in front 52-41 with just under seven minutes remaining.
Chicago went five and a half minutes without a field goal as it fell behind by 11, before making one final push to pull within four points with 1:48 to play. However, Alex Hoover hit a floating jumper in the lane with just 1:18 to play put the Bears back up by six and headed to the Final Four for the third consecutive year.
The 2011 NCAA Division III Final Four will be held Friday-Saturday, March 18-19, on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill. The Bears will face either George Fox University in the national semifinal on Friday night.