March 16, 2009

*Courtesy of Minnesota State Mankato Athletics

Mankato, Minn. - The fourth-ranked national and top-seeded regionally Minnesota State women's basketball team defeated the seventh-ranked nationally and second-seeded regionally, Fort Lewis Skyhawks 72-61 in the NCAA Central Region Finals. The game was played in front of 2,039 fans in Bresnan Arena in Taylor Center on the campus of Minnesota State University. The crowd was the largest to see a stand-alone women's basketball game in the Taylor Center.

The win brings the Mavericks record to 29-2, while Fort Lewis College's season ends with a 28-4 record.

This will be MSU's first appearance in the "Elite Eight" in the team's history.

"I'm really happy for the girls," said MSU interim head coach Pam Gohl. "They worked hard all year and it's great to see their dreams come true."

Both teams remained close early on as Fort Lewis held a small-three point lead at 13-10, with 13:24 left in the half. The Skyhawks would continue to hold the lead as they led by four at 18-14 with 9:40 left in the first half.

The Mavericks would start to exert themselves as they outscored Fort Lewis 16-10 to take their first lead of the night at 30-28. A pair of three point shots from senior guard Flecia Foster and freshman guard Lauren Barber helped the Mavericks build a 36-30 lead before heading into the locker room.

Barber and Foster led the Mavericks in scoring in the first half with eight and seven points, respectively, while senior forward Alex Andrews and junior guard Tiffany Moe chipped in with four points and three rebounds each.

Early in the second half the Mavericks maintained their lead as they held Fort Lewis to just 13 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half. A jump shot from junior center Mari Korton gave the Mavericks their first double-digit lead of the game at 57-46 with just 7:04 left in the second half.

The Skyhawks managed to get within six of MSU at 64-58 with 1:28 left in the game, but the Mavericks would shut the door as they finished the final 88 seconds, outscoring Fort Lewis 8-3 to bring the final score to 72-61.

Senior guard Jo Noreen led the Mavericks in scoring with 17 points, while Johnson chipped in with 12 points.

Of MSU's 72 points, 23 came from the bench with Korton and Barber posting eight points each and Foster recording seven points.

"I'm really glad our bench stepped up," Noreen said. "Our bench did a really good job at scoring tonight."

Minnesota State will take on the NCAA Midwest Region Champion Michigan Tech in the Elite Eight March 24, in San Antonio, Texas.