Women's College Basketball

Clock Strikes Midnight: Wildcats' Cinderella run ends in Heart Tournament finals

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 4, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Mar. 5, 2019 12:30 am

OSKALOOSA, Iowa -- How much of an impact did Yashti Nwagbaraocha have on Monday night's Heart of America Athletic Conference women's basketball tournament championship game?

Just simply looking at the scorebook should give you an idea, but it more than that.

The 6-foot senior from Milwaukee had 22 points in William Penn's 67-57 victory over Culver-Stockton College. She also collected 17 rebounds, including three offensive rebound baskets, as the Statesmen owned a 47-37 rebounding advantage.

Defensively, she guarded all of Culver-Stockton's post players without any help from her teammates. Freshman Taylor Green scored 17 points to lead the Wildcats, but William Penn's perimeter defenders rarely left Carly Harper, Lacey Clark and Ryan Dooley, who combined for a 5-for-27 shooting effort.

"She's a champion. She's a winner. She's the player of the year in our league for good reason," Statesmen coach Steve Williamson said of Nwagbaraocha. "She's unstoppable."

The victory sends William Penn to the NAIA National Tournament later this month in Billings, Mont. Culver-Stockton (19-14), which entered the Heart tournament as the seventh seed, was in the tournament final for the first time since 2002.

C-SC started well, using an 8-0 run to lead 18-11 after the first quarter. Harper, Dooley and Clark all made 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes.

After that, however, the Wildcats struggled offensively. They were outscored 21-6 in the second quarter, missing 11 of 12 shots, and trailed 32-24 at halftime.

"Our adrenalin carried us early," Culver-Stockton coach Janette Burgin said. "William Penn doesn't make a lot of mistakes. You just can't speed them up. They used their time well, and we weren't patient.

"If there's a time in the game when things aren't going your way, you tend to settle for quick shots."

The third quarter didn't go much better. The Wildcats missed all seven of their 3-point shots in that frame, and William Penn took its biggest lead on a layup by Brenda Pennington to make the score 52-32 with 1:51 left in the quarter.

"I told our girls not to double down (on the Wildcats' post players) because their shooters are too good," Williamson said. "We didn't want to leave Clark out there alone. She's too good of a player, one of the best in the league."

"They were guarding us closer than usual," said Clark, who had six points -- eight under her season average.

C-SC scored the last six points of the third quarter, then got within 11 points three times in the fourth quarter. A three-point play by Curley got the Wildcats within 63-55 with 1:10 to go, but they got no closer.

Missing out on a chance to go to the NAIA Tournament for the first time since 1995 stings, but it didn't diminish a remarkable run through the league tournament.

"No one thought we would be here," Green said. "It's been a blessing at the same time."

"It really stinks that you don't win," said Clark, one of two seniors. "But I will remember this last week forever."

William Penn 67, Culver-Stockton 57

CULVER-STOCKTON (19-14)

Harper 1-7 0-0 2, Dooley 2-13 3-4 9, Clark 2-7 1-4 6, Sailor 4-8 2-3 10, Green 6-10 4-6 17, McQueen 1-2 0-0 3, Guehne 0-0 0-0 0, Curley 3-5 1-1 7, Keeling 0-0 0-0 0, Broadus 1-5 0-2 2, Neuner 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-58 11-20 57.

WILLIAM PENN (30-2)

Nwagbaraocha 9-15 4-4 22, Oliver 1-6 0-0 3, Ylitalo 6-13 0-0 16, Pennington 4-11 0-0 8, Santi 4-12 1-2 9, Taylor 0-3 2-4 2, Voigt 0-1 0-0 0, Pezley 3-7 0-0 6. Totals 27-68 7-10 67.

Culver-Stockton 18 6 14 19--57

William Penn 11 21 20 15--67

3-point field goals--Culver-Stockton 6-24 (Harper 1-5, Dooley 2-10, Clark 1-3, Sailor 0-1, Green 1-1, McQueen 1-1, Curley 0-1, Broadus 0-2), William Penn 6-19 (Ylitalo 4-8, Pezley 1-3, Oliver 1-5, Santi 0-1, Taylor 0-2). Rebounds--Culver-Stockton 37 (Sailor 7), William Penn 47 (Nwagbaraocha 17). Assists--Culver-Stockton 14 (Harper, Dooley 5), William Penn 12 (Pennington, Santi 4). Steals--Culver-Stockton 7 (Dooley 2), William Penn 5 (five with one each). Blocked shots--Culver-Stockton 7 (Green 3), William Penn 2 (Nwagbaraocha, Voigt 1). Turnovers--Culver-Stockton 13, William Penn 13. Fouls--Culver-Stockton 17, William Penn 18. Fouled out--Pennington.