Wayne State College used 62 percent shooting in the second half and rallied from a six-point deficit with just over 6 minutes remaining for a 78-73 victory against Colorado Christian Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Division II Central Regional Women’s Basketball Tournament in Durango, Colo. The NCAA Division II ninth-ranked Wildcats improve to 26-3 on the season with the win while ending the season for Colorado Christian at 18-11.

The Wildcats got off to a slow start and trailed 13-5 with 15:24 to go in the first half. Thanks to strong play from bench players Ellen Hansen and Julie Ann Wagner, the Wildcats stayed close and took the lead with just under 6 minutes play in the half. A 3-pointer from Wagner, a layup by Hansen and another trey from Wagner erased a five-point Colorado Christian lead and put the ‘Cats in front 21-20 with 5:57 to play in the half.

Each team traded scoring runs late in the first half as CCU used a 8-3 spurt in a span of 2:36 to take a 28-24 lead on a Kelsie Hert layup with 3:21 before halftime. The Wildcats then used back-to-back layups from Ellen Hansen and a three-point play by Mara Hjelle to take a 31-28 lead with 1:17 left in the half. But Colorado Christian responded with a 3-pointer by Christina Whitelaw and a free throw by Hert to take a 32-21 lead at the intermission.

Wayne State opened the second half on a 3-pointer from Ashley Arlen and a basket by Mara Hjelle to take a 36-32 lead with 18:00 to play. An Ali Schwartzwald layup with 16:31 to play had WSC leading 38-36. But Colorado Christian went on a 11-2 run over the next 2:29 to take a 47-40 lead with 14:02 to play. Wayne State scored the next seven points to even the score at 47-47 with 12:15 to play on an Alisha Brown basket. With the score tied at 49-49, the Cougars went on a 6-0 run and held a 55-49 lead at the 9:00 mark. CCU still led 62-56 with 6:17 to play in the game when Wayne State made its move.

A Clare Duwelius 3-pointer with 3:58 remaining tied the score for the seventh time in the game at 64-64. After CCU regained the lead at 66-64 on a Kelsie Hert jumper, WSC scored on three consecutive possessions while forcing the Cougars into a pair of turnovers and the Wildcats took control of the game at that point. An Ashley Arlen 3-pointer and jumper followed by a Mara Hjelle jumper with 1:39 to play put the Wildcats up 71-66.

Colorado Christian’s Brittany Long sank a 3-pointer with 41 seconds remaining to trim the Wildcat lead to one at 74-73. On the next WSC possession, Alisha Brown found Clare Duwelius on the right baseline for a 15-footer with 21 seconds to play giving WSC a 76-73 lead. Colorado Christian was setting up a play for the game-tying three-point shot, but Jodie Krall turned the ball over and Wayne State’s Alyssa Fischbach was fouled with 5.7 seconds left. The senior from Mellette, S.D., calmly sank two free throws to seal Wayne State’s 78-73 win.

“I’m extremely proud of my players…they played with incredible guts and determination today,” WSC head coach Chris Kielsmeier said in the post-game press conference. “Winning in the NCAA tournament is what it’s all about and I’m so glad this team got to experience the moment.”

Junior forward Ashley Arlen, the Northern Sun Conference Player of the Year, scored a game-high 21 points to lead Wayne State in scoring. She was 7 of 14 from the field and 5 of 7 at the charity stripe. Senior Alyssa Fischbach added 12 points while Clare Duwelius and Mara Hjelle scored 11 points apiece.

Wayne State shot 28 of 56 from the field for 50 percent, 62.5 percent in the second half making 15 of 24 shots. The ‘Cats were 8 of 21 from 3-point range and 14 of 20 at the charity stripe.

Stephanie Allen scored 20 points to lead Colorado Christian on 10 of 13 shooting from the field. Freshman guard Christina Whitelaw recorded a triple-double for the Cougars with 14 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. CCU shot 50 percent from the field, making 31 of 62 shots. The Cougars were 7 of 18 from the 3-point line and 4 of 5 at the charity stripe.

Wayne State held a slight 32-31 advantage in rebounding over Colorado Christian. Ashley Arlen grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Wildcats while Hjelle had eight boards and Christina Whitelaw led Colorado Christian on the glass with 10 rebounds.