Lady Norse one win away from Elite Eight berth

INDIANAPOLIS – Early in the second half Saturday night, Northern Kentucky University appeared to have delivered the knockout punch to the University of Indianapolis during their NCAA Division II Great Lakes Region Tournament semifinal game.

The fifth-seeded Norse held a 16-point lead (44-28) over top-seeded Indianapolis with 14 minutes remaining, and the Greyhounds looked confused, battered and beaten on the Nicoson Hall court. NKU had effectively shut down Indianapolis on the inside, and the Greyhounds looked ready to fold.

It became interesting in a hurry, though. Indianapolis scored the next 12 points and used a 23-7 run to forge a 51-51 tie on a three-pointer by Erin Moran. Suddenly, it was NKU’s turn to respond to pressure.

That’s when the Norse demonstrated what NCAA Tournament experience – not to mention a talented freshman – can do for a team at clutch time.

Freshman forward Sharell Snardon stopped the Indianapolis run by hitting the go-ahead basket with 6:40 remaining and NKU proceeded to stun Indianapolis, 66-57. Snardon finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Norse (23-7) halted Indianapolis’ 17-game win streak and advanced to Monday’s 7 p.m. NCAA II Great Lakes Region title contest against Quincy University.

Amy Mobley – one of three remaining players from the 2000 NCAA Division II national championship team – added 16 points and hit a key three-pointer with five minutes remaining in the game. The Norse held the Greyhounds (29-3) to 33.3 percent shooting from the field and avenged two losses to Indianapolis in the regular season.

“Our players responded very well to this challenge, and I can’t tell you what a big win this is for our program,” NKU head coach Nancy Winstel said. “Indianapolis is one of the top teams in the nation, and they are extremely tough at home.”

After Indianapolis – ranked No. 7 nationally in NCAA Division II – responded with the 23-7 run to tie the game at 51-51, Snardon powered her way inside for a basket at the 6:40 mark to give NKU a 53-51 advantage. The Norse held Indianapolis to just five points in the final six minutes and never relinquished the lead after Snardon’s go-ahead basket.

“Sharell Snardon has played great the entire postseason, and she doesn’t act like a freshman in big situations,” Winstel said of the freshman, who was fouled intentionally on a breakaway in the final seconds and forced to leave the game. “She was a force inside, and she also grabbed some important rebounds.”

Bridget Flanagan and Kristin Polosky each added 12 points for NKU, which is seeking its fourth trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in the past five years.

“Our three seniors (Mobley, Flanagan and Polosky) were huge in this win, and you expect that from them,” Winstel said. “They know what it takes to be successful in the NCAA Tournament, and that was key for us.”

Standing in NKU’s path for a trip to the Elite Eight is Quincy, which posted a 101-93 win over Bellarmine in the other semifinal on Saturday. The Lady Hawks defeated NKU last week in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament by a 66-54 score, and Winstel said Quincy is a formidable opponent.

“They have great talent at every position, and they really beat us badly in our last meeting,” she said. “We’re going to have to play our best game to beat Quincy, because they are on a roll.”