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Lady RedHawks lose heartbreaker 62-59 to Cal State - San Marcos in final seconds

Exciting comeback bid falls short for IU Northwest at A.I.I. Conference Tourney


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MADISON, S.D. - In one of its most exciting games of the season, Indiana University Northwest came back from a 15-point deficit in the second half to take the lead against California State – San Marcos, only to see hope for a third straight national tournament bid slip away in the final seconds in a 62-59 loss at the 2012 State Farm Association of Independent Institutions Conference Tournament.

Senior Sharon Houston (Merrillville) led all scorers with 24 points, but she was unable to find a shot in the final seconds to surmount a 60-59 deficit. A forced turnover and two free throws by the Lady Cougars with 0.6 seconds remaining sealed the unhappy result for IU Northwest, which finishes the season 19-12.

“Our girls showed a lot of courage and character to battle back and take the lead after being down by 15 with eight minutes to go,” IU Northwest head coach Ryan Shelton said after the game. “We didn’t play well for most of the game and left ourselves no margin for error.

“We faced a lot of adversity this year, and through it all the girls stuck together and had a great season. We are very proud of them,” he added.

Highlights for IU Northwest this season included a 78-77 win over NCAA D-I Chicago State on Feb. 1 and a 76-75 road win over Top 10 NAIA sqaud Bethel College on Dec. 20.  

Saturday’s game determined which team would earn one of the conference’s two automatic bids to the NAIA National Tournament next month. IU Northwest came into the tournament as the two-time defending A.I.I. conference champion. 

It was the final game for seniors Houston, Juliette Keller (Kouts), Kymberli Daniels (Hammond Morton), and Ashley Michalski (Lake Central).

“For our seniors who played their final game today, I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Shelton said. “They will be impossible to replace.”

For Cal State – San Marcos, the win will send them to the national tourney in their first year of competitive women’s basketball, notwithstanding the result of Sunday’s scheduled championship game.

The semifinal matchup was a frustrating game in many respects for the Lady RedHawks, who tied the game seven times but could not take a lead until the final minute, when freshman Ashley Parish (Griffith) hit 1-for-2 after a Cal State shooting foul for the 59-58 lead. But the RedHawk defense was unable to deny the Cougars a field goal at the other end, and, with 16 seconds remaining, IU Northwest could not find a route inside for either the last shot or another foul. 

The Lady Cougars led Northwest by as many as seven in the first half and opened a 15-point lead midway through the second half.

But Houston and fellow senior Juliette Keller (Kouts), who finished the game with two threes and 10 points, led the RedHawks back from the brink with a 13-0 run, setting up the game’s dramatic finale. Sophomore Brianne Wischman also had a big game, hitting three treys and five free throws for 14 points. 

Late in the first half, Keller’s sophomore sister, Annmarie Keller (Kouts), was injured diving to the sideline in pursuit of a loose ball. She was able to walk off the court but did not return to the game and finished with two points. Foul trouble also impacted the RedHawk strategy, as Houston and Michalski were playing with four each at game’s end.

IU Northwest shot 19-for-51 from the floor and 16-for-25 from the line, and hit five threes on 19 attempts, including 1-for-9 in the first half. The Lady RedHawks grabbed just 38 rebounds to Cal State’s 47.

Cal State – San Marcos shot 22-for-68 from the floor and 15-for-20 from the stripe, and knocked down three treys on eight attempts. The Lady Cougars had 24 offensive rebounds compared to just 14 for Northwest, a statistic that helps to explain why the Cal State took 17 more shots from the floor than the RedHawks.

IU Northwest turned the ball over 27 times to Cal State’s 23 and blocked eight shots to Cal State’s one.