(Sorry, couldn't resist all the abbreviations there in the headline.)
The women's hoops team at Olivet Nazarene continued its late-season surge Saturday, rolling past Indiana University-South Bend 114-74 in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference. Their fourth consecutive victory secured the No. 3 seed for the Tigers (14-16, 6-4 CCAC) heading into the conference tournament next week, which essentially means they won't have to face Saint Xavier, ranked second in the most recent NAIA poll, until the final. That is, provided ONU gets that far.
But I digress ...
The Titans (19-10, 5-5) won the earlier matchup between the teams by the score of 84-76 on Feb. 2. It wasn't nearly as close this time, almost from the get-go, as Lexie Heinold made two 3-pointers in the opening 54 seconds. The score grew to 14-3 at the 16:19 mark of the first half, 24-8 at 12:54, 40-19 at 6:12, 50-24 at 3:27 and finally peaked at 63-32 on Jaimie Buckman's 3 that came 15 seconds before halftime.
After that, the second half essentially was exercise.
"I'm a little surprised at how much we've improved, given that we only have one senior and two juniors playing along with 11 underclassmen," Coach Porter wrote in an e-mail to me shortly after the game. "We've always seen significant progress from our teams since we installed the Grinnell 'System' six years ago, but maybe because of our youth, the improvement this year is even more dramatic than usual."
Evidently. ONU finished 37-for-82 from the field, including 21-for-49 on 3-pointers, and tallied 30 assists on those 37 baskets. What a ratio. Five players reached double figures, led by Simone Coburn with 16. Heinhold and Danielle Tolbert each had 15, Nikki Dier added 14 and Buckman scored 12, and four more players chipped in at least seven points, as Coach Porter pointed out in his e-mail.
And the Tigers totaled 16 steals while forcing 29 turnovers. All in all, an amazing effort in the regular season finale. They now have won five of their past six games while averaging 117.3 points in that span.
ONU gets another home game in the first round of the conference tourney, hosting struggling Holy Cross on Tuesday. The Tigers swept the season series by an average score of 126-64; a victory there sends them to second-seeded St. Francis, which lost to ONU 119-111 in overtime two weeks ago. Let's keep our fingers crossed for Coach Porter and his team, and a HUGE thanks to him for keeping us in the loop.
Elsewhere Saturday, the Glenville State College women's team didn't enjoy the same success, losing a heartbreaker 71-70 to West Virginia Wesleyan in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. And, yes, those 70 points are a season low against NCAA Division II competition for the Pioneers (they scored 45 in a loss to D-I Liberty back in December).
Still, they had a chance to win the final seconds, but a putback attempt in traffic by leading scorer Donita Adams was off, ending a five-game winning streak and giving the Bobcats the regular season title. If Glenville State had won, it would have secured the title, so it was a tough way to go out at home. Yet the Pioneers (17-9, 15-7 WVIAC) came a long way in coach Bunky Harkleroad's first season, improving from a 9-19 mark a year ago that included a 7-13 finish in the conference. This year, despite the loss, they carry the No. 4 seed into the tournament.
Adams had 22 points to lead the way, as she has much of the year, and Kristen Golden added 11. Glenville State shot only 24-for-87 (27.6 percent) for the game -- 10-for-40 (25 percent) on 3s -- and couldn't capitalize on 30 turnovers by West Virginia Wesleyan (19-8, 17-5). Hopefully, these two teams will meet again in the tournament.
The Pioneers open at home Monday against 13th-seeded Alderson-Broaddus, with the tip at 7:30. Here's hoping Coach Harkleroad and his team enjoy a long run in the postseason.