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HU’s season comes to an end Friday night at USF

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. – In a Crossroads League battle that fans have come to expect at tourney time, the 2nd-seeded Cougars of Saint Francis squeaked out a three-point win, 59-56, over the 6th-seeded HU women’s basketball team in the semifinals of the conference tournament Friday night at Hutzell Athletic Center.

The loss brings an end to what Huntington was hoping would be a fairytale season. After winning just five of their last ten games, the Foresters remained on the prowl for a trip to the NAIA National Tournament and a win Friday night would have send them to the championship game with Marian and brought that reality to fruition.

Marian earned the league’s automatic berth to nationals as the regular season champs so the second bid will now go to Saint Francis win or lose at Monday’s championship game.

As has been the case all season, the Foresters didn’t go down without a fight and leading the way was senior Miranda Palmer. The 5-6 guard drained a three with 1:05 remaining to give her team a 56-54 advantage for HU’s first lead in the second half. It had all the makings as an epic comeback but the Cougars had other plans.

Lauren McBryar, who proved to be USF’s lifeline all night, countered with an impossible baseline shot less than 15 seconds later. The rest of the game unfolded in favor of the Cougars as they went 3-for-4 from the charity stripe while the Foresters came up empty on their final three possessions.

Palmer nearly single handedly kept HU in the hunt by finishing with 29 points which included scoring 15 of her team’s 19 first half points to go along with collecting six rebounds and two assists. She wraps up her Forester career as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,173 points.

Fellow senior Allyson Trout added nine points, two assists and two steals in her final game in green and white. The Huntington native saved her best for last by scoring 355 of her 850 career points this season for an 11.5 scoring average.   

McBryar topped the Cougars with 21 points and eight rebounds while Paige Frisch chipped in 13 points and ten rebounds for the game’s only double double.

The lead toggled back and forth seven times in the opening twenty minutes with HU’s last lead of the half, 14-13, coming less than three minutes into the second quarter. Unfortunately, things unraveled after that as the Cougars outscored their visitors by nine to head into intermission with a 27-19 lead.

USF would open up a ten-point advantage twice in the third quarter but Coach Culler’s gritty crew was nowhere near throwing in the towel. Down 42-32 with 2:36 left in the frame, HU closed out the quarter with a 9-1 run to narrow the gap to 43-41 by the final break.

While no more than two possessions separated the two teams in the fourth, it was the Cougars who pieced together the final spurt, a 5-0 run, to extend their win streak to seven but more importantly punch their ticket to the national tournament.

The Foresters finish the year with an overall record of 15-16.

The Huntington University Foresters compete in 17 intercollegiate sports for men and women. In the past decade, Huntington has produced 38 NAIA All-America honors and 254 All-America Scholar Athlete honors. Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S. News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest.