SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- A pair of former national champions will meet in the first national semifinal game Wednesday in Sioux Falls with a trip to the national championship game on the line. If their quarterfinal outbursts were any indication, this one has the makings of a high-scoring contest.
California (Pa.) last appeared in the semifinals in 2004 when it won the national championship. This year’s team features a balanced attack led by Miki Glenn’s 16.2 points per game. She scored 17 in the Cal’s quarterfinal win against Nova Southeastern, but it’s been Emma Mahady’s hot hand that has helped drive the Vulcans’ drive to the semifinals.Mahady scored a game high 24 points -- just two shy of her season high -- in Tuesday’s quarterfinal win. She was 4-for-7 from the 3-point line and 10-of-18 overall. The ten made field goals ties a season high.
Cal Baptist is averaging 73.6 points per game and limiting opponents to just more than 60 per game. But that mark is sure to be challenged in their semifinal game against Emporia State. The Hornets can score in bunches as well, and they’ll test the Vulcans defense all night.
On the other side of the bracket, Emporia State also scores at a solid clip, averaging 71.3 points per game. Kelly Moten leads the scoring for Emporia State, averaging 14.8 points per game. She had 16 in their quarterfinal win against West Texas A&M, but just like Cal Baptist, the Hornets had another scorer that did some damage in the quarterfinal round.
Merissa Quick scored a game-high 17 points for the Hornets, and she was efficient in the process going 4-for-7 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free throw line. Quick averages 11.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for Emporia State.
Emporia State -- national champions in 2010 -- has been stingy on defense this year, allowing just 55 points per game.
“I’m always nervous before every game, so it’s nothing new,” Moten said of playing in the Elite Eight. “It felt like the first game of the season to me. My nerves aren’t gone yet, I’ll still have nerves tomorrow when we get ready to play.”
Cal Baptist has been the surprise so far in this tournament, cruising through the field as an unranked entrant, now playing in the semifinals for the first time in school history.
The Lancers are competing in just their second year in the NCAA, but the big stage has not kept the young team from succeeding. Cal Baptist features three underclassmen in the starting rotation.
“We’ll just wing it,” said sophomore Courtney Nelson, who finished with 19 points and eight rebounds for the Lancers in their quarterfinal win against New Haven. “At this point, we better be ready to play.”
But for as inspiring as the young crew is at Cal Baptist, it’s junior Darsha Burnside that drives the offense for the Lancers. Burnside scored 27 points in their quarterfinal victory, and averages 14.2 points per game.
The Lancers average 80 points per game and have scored 85 or more points 11 times this season. They scored 50 points in the second half in their quarterfinal victory Tuesday.
That scoring pace will be tested against Limestone, who enters their national semi-final game on the nation’s longest winning streak at 32 games. Limestone digs in on defense, and allows just 54 points per game.
Limestone spreads the wealth on offense as four players average double-figure scoring, led by Jasmine Kearse’s 15.3 points per game. Morgan Brown averages just 4.4 points per game, but scored in double figures for just the fourth time all season in Limestone’s quarterfinal victory against Lewis with 12 points. She’s scored ten in the regional tournament in a win against Wingate.
The Saints force nearly 20 turnovers per game.
“We’re excited to play anybody,” coach said. “They’re a really good team, but we’re just excited to move on. To tell you the truth, I haven’t even thought one second about them.”