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Women’s basketball reflects on historic season after Griffins fall in NCAA Sweet 16

The women’s basketball team huddles in the final seconds of the RMAC championship quarter-final game against Black Hills State University March 2. The Griffins lost this game 66-71 but came back to beat the Yellow Jackets in the first round of the NCAADII tournament. (Emmaline Russell)

A historic game unfolded as the Westminster College women’s basketball team competed in the NCAA DII tournament Monday — the furthest the team has advanced in an NCAA DII tournament. The Griffins faced the Azusa Pacific University Cougars in the Sweet 16 matchup at Bronson Stadium in Grand Junction, Colorado. 

The Colorado Mesa Mavericks, who call this stadium home, did not qualify for the tournament.  

The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) currently competes in 22 NCAA Division II sports and has earned 52 NCAA Division II national championships, with 44 national runner-ups since 1992. 

Starting for the Griffins were Abby Mangum, Kaylee Carlsen, Mariah Martin, Sarah McGinley and Hunter Krebs. In this game, the women’s basketball team set a school record as the furthest any Westminster basketball team has advanced in an NCAA DII tournament.  

The Griffins finished the first quarter trailing 19-9. Both teams were putting up tough defenses, but the Griffins struggled to break the zone defense and find the hoop. The Cougars were successfully draining almost every three-pointer. 

Unlike other RMAC competitions during the COVID-19 pandemic, a small number of fans were permitted to attend. This is the first time families have been allowed to watch their athletes compete in-person since early 2020. 

To finish the second quarter, the Griffins were still struggling to score. The score was 36-21 starting the second half, with the Cougars holding the lead.  

During the third quarter, the Griffins had a hard time capitalizing on rebounds. With one quarter remaining, they needed to make up for a ten-point deficit. 

With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Griffins were down 47-44. The Cougars made a fast break pushing the score 49-44 after the Griffins missed three back-to-back three-pointers. 

The Griffins ultimately fell with a final score of 53-48. However, the team said they were proud of their accomplishments. 

In addition to the championship milestone, Sarah McGinley and Hunter Krebs were named to the NCAADII West Regional All-Tournament team. 

“Awards and recognition are cool, for a lack of a better word, but without every girl on this team from starter to benchwarmer and freshmen to senior, all of this is not possible,” said McGinley, a senior on the women’s basketball team. “I would not have received that recognition without them.”

McGinley said the team has enjoyed a positive legacy long before its current iteration which contributed to Monday’s tournament.

“This Sweet 16 appearance is the result of years of hard work, dedication, and love from Coach Shelley and Coach Jax well before I was playing for them,” she said. “The legacy to be left is one that has always been there because of them — a culture of love, support, acceptance. All of which extend far beyond just basketball, and of course, winning.” 

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Emmaline Russell
Emmaline Russell is a senior communication major from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is heavily involved in Westminster College's athletic community. Emmaline is captain of the women's lacrosse team and serves on the SAAC board. When she is not on the field or in the classroom, you can find her enjoying a nearby trail or crag. If it's rainy, your next best bet is searching Salt Lake City's museums and art galleries.

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