HUNTINGTON, Ind. - It was a battle to the bitter end Saturday afternoon at Platt Arena with the 5th-ranked Knights of Marian University (18-2, 7-1) slipping past the Huntington women’s basketball team 61-60.
There are several marks of a good team and Saturday was a testament to that. A good team makes plays when it counts and that’s exactly what the two-time defending national champs did midway through the fourth quarter. The Knights forced HU into six turnovers over a four-minute span to turn a five-point deficit into an 11-point advantage of 60-49 with just over two minutes to go.
The mark of a good team also never quits in the midst of adversary and Culler’s crew responded accordingly in the face of MU’s 16-0 run. A timeout to regroup was just what the Foresters needed to come firing back with an 11-1 run. Two Maddie Richer freebies trimmed the lead to single digits with 90 seconds to go. Richer would score once more with the shot clock winding down but otherwise it was the Hailey Krewald show.
The 5-7 hard-nosed guard scored seven points in the final minute of play. While Marian could do no wrong just minutes earlier, they were only able to convert one of their six free throws in the final 45 seconds to leave the door open for the hosts.
Beginning with Richer’s two points from the charity stripe, the Foresters scored on every possession except for a long ball by Richer that looked like it was going to find the bottom of the net and would have made for an even more edge-of-your-seat finish. But as it was, HU’s fast and furious finish was two point short of an upset.
It was a physical afternoon of basketball that featured four ties and five lead changes as the two teams, each priding themselves on defense, jockeyed for any sort of advantage. Leading up to the last five minutes, no more than two possessions separated the CL foes minus one possession in the middle of the third quarter.
The Foresters scored eight of their 12 first quarter points in the opening three-and-a-half minutes for an early 8-2 advantage. They were able to ride that lead the rest of the quarter to hang on for a 12-11 tilt at the first break but the second ten minutes favored the visitors. They cashed in on three of their seven from downtown to climb on top 29-23 by the midway point.
Huntington made up five points in the third quarter compliments of Cindy In’t Groen who connected of three of her four free throws and scored on a fade-away in the lane for a 43-41 difference heading into the fourth where both teams put 19 points on the board to make for the one-point finish.
The two teams shot the ball similarly with HU going 21-for-51 for 41.2 percent while Marian finished 22-for-53 for 41.5 percent. The Knights canned two more threes than their hosts but Huntington converted a higher percentage of their freebies by going 13-for-14 for 92.9 percent. MU finished 10-for-19 from the line for 52.6 percent.
Krewald poured in a game- and season-best 22 points by going 8-for-12 from the field and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. Richer added 12 points to go along with a team-high three assists. Brooke Saylor tossed in ten points, swatted five shots and took control of the boards with 19 rebounds. As a team, HU controlled the glass 40-28.
Rachel Titzer came off the bench to lead Marian with 17 points which included back-to-back triples during her team’s 16-0 burst. Dejah Cyrus collected 11 points and 15 rebounds while the Foresters limited the league’s preseason player of the year in Kellie Kirkhoff to ten points.
Second round of conference play starts on Wednesday with a home contest for the Foresters (11-8, 4-4) against Goshen at 7:00 p.m.
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 274 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.