From the Elite Eight to the final game

NCAA Tournament Elite Eight: Wednesday March 26 St. Joseph, Missouri

They had the fans (a few busloads). They had the homecourt advantage, (Topeka, Kansas is only an hour away). They brought the band and the cheerleaders.

They were the Lady Blues of Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.

On NKU’s side, forward Sharell Snardon was back from an injury.

“I was kind of nervous coming in. I didn’t know how I was going to do today,” said Snardon, at a post-game news conference.

Snardon ended up scoring 13 points.

Three seniors- forward Amy Mobley, guard Bridget Flanagan and forward Kristin Polosky- brought tournament savvy and experience.

They were led by Nancy Wintsel the Lady Norse’s head coach of 20 years who summed up the last couple of weeks as, “…a little nerve wracking but … this team is so much fun to be around. It’s a riot. I’m living a dream. A lot of people crossed us off a long time ago and it’s amazing for us to be here, to be in this situation to win a game is, wow, great.”

The Norse opened the game with a layup by Polosky.

The Norse held no bigger than a four point lead for the next six minutes.

Midway through the first half the Lady Blues hit a shot that gave them their only lead of the game at 18-17. Then, Mobley hit a three point shot four feet behind the arc.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” said Mobley after the game. “I don’t know where I was on the floor. I missed one right before that, but it was either an air ball or it went in and we went back up by two.”

The Lady Blues kept the deficit at eight points through the shooting of reserve guard Kristy Chapman who hit three long range three pointers when she got a step up on the defense for an open shot.

The Norse went on to play a more aggressive match-up zone during the second half.

Flanagan stepped up and connected on a couple of threes and seven conventional baskets.

The Lady Blues were held scoreless for more than nine minutes during a stretch, which allowed the Norse to extend their lead to 50-35 with 9:49 left.

The match-up zone defense ended up serving the team well.

Washburn coach Ron McHenry said of the Norse, “the big difference was their match-up zone. We never could get accustomed to it. We tried to work a couple of different offenses against it, and we never could get a rhythm against it.”

The Norse held Washburn to 30% shooting in the second half while they shot shot 52 percent.

The Norse won the game 65-53.

Mobley’s long range shots were also an important factor, prompting Nancy Wintsel to say at the post game news conference, “We do some really crazy stuff at times. The one thing we do when that happens is that we don’t panic. I’m over there screaming, ranting and raving and yelling, and they just look at me like, ‘you know, it’s all right, here we go! That’s just the way we play.”

Snardon scored 13 of her 16 points in the first half.

NCAA Tournament Final Four Semifinals: Thursday March 27 St.Joseph, Missouri

Call it winning ugly. Or call it David vs. Goliath.

If NKU was David, then the Vulcan’s of California University of Pennsylvania were Goliath with six-foot-nine-inch Suzie Gyarfas, a native of Hungary, standing like a foreboding statue in the middle of the lane guarding the basket.

The Vulcans were the No. 1 ranked team in Division II women’s basketball. They came into the game with an overall record of 33-1.

In order to win the Norse needed to hit their outside shots or find a way to score in the paint, but they were held to 27 percent shooting for the game and only 18 percent shooting from three-point range.

Instead, they were forced to win the game with team defense.

The Norse forced 21 turnovers, 12 coming in the second half. NKU stole the ball 11 times, while the Vulcan’s mustered just one steal.

NKU also blocked four Vulcan shots and held the Division II Player of the Year, Becky Siembak , to just 14 points, four in the second half.

The biggest lead held by Cal. was five points, while the Norse were up by as much as eight early in the first half. The score was tied six times throughout the game.

However, NKU didn’t let the Vulcans score during the last 2:11 of the game.

The most critical portion of the game came when NKU’s Kristin Polosky missed the first of a one-on-one opportunity, with just 12 seconds remaining. Cal. got the rebound and called timeout with nine seconds remaining.

A smart coaching move by Nancy Winstel had Elizabeth Burrows fouling a Vulcan with 7.6 seconds left.

The Vulcans were not yet in the bonus and that stoppage of play certainly affected their rhythm.

After another timeout by Cal. the ball was thrown in via a lob pass and was deflected out-of-bounds by the Norse. Only 1.1 seconds remained on the clock. Cal. threw the ball in to an open Sameera Philyah, but Snarden knocked the ball away as time expired. David had beaten Goliath.

Snardon commented on her defensive play at the end of the game during a press conference.

“I wasn’t anticipating anything. Basically I was just looking around,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. I was so nervous, because one second is a lot of time to do a lot of things. I was like ‘please let me do something to help us out’ but I wasn’t anticipated anything.”

The Norse march on to the championship game against the Jack Rabbits of South Dakota State University. The same team that knocked out the Norse during the Elite Eight game last season 64-63.

Championship Game

NCAA Tournament: Saturday March 29 ST. Joseph, Missouri.

The Jackrabbits of South Dakota State University hopped to a quick six point lead in the first two minutes of the NCAA Women’s Division II game against the Norse.

The Norse got to within two points of the Jackrabbits at the 17:06 mark of the first half.

They would get no closer the rest of the way.

The strategy of the South Dakota State University coach Aaron Johnston was to force NKU out further from the basket after they crossed the halfcourt line.

This plan forced Bridget Flanagan and Amy Mobley out beyond their three point range and would cut off the short dump pass into the low post for Polosky, forward Connie Myers and Snardon.

It worked to perfection the whole game.

The Norse could never get into any sort of rhythm and had to resort to throwing some risky passes to their teammates. SDSU got wise to this and cut off these passing lanes, which resulted in 16 turnovers in the first half alone.

By the time intermission came around the Norse found themselves behind by a score of 32-17.

In the second half though they held their own by chipping away until the deficit was nine points with 12:37 to go.

The Norse were able to match the Jackrabbits point for point in the last 20 minutes but the lead after the first half proved too large to overcome. The Norse lost 65-50.

In the final analysis, it was turnovers and 48 percent shooting from the charity stripe that did the Norse in.

In the post game news conference, Nancy Wintsel said she was very proud of her team especially during the tournament games when the Norse won five and lost one.

“We’ll be back here again, real soon,” said Sharell Snardon who was also selected as all tournament freshman.