Third time’s the charm: women’s basketball beats No. 4 Hope to return national title to WU
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — After a third appearance in the championship game in four years, Jaimie McFarlin and the veteran Washington University women’s basketball team would not be denied.
“Even when I was shooting those last free throws, I was thinking [that] it’s still not over,” McFarlin said. “I just couldn’t believe it until the confetti started falling, and it was real confetti, not the confetti in my dreams. To get to the goals that you set, it feels so good.”
The No. 6 Bears rallied behind a tenacious defense to control the entire game against No. 4 Hope College, taking the game and the 2010 NCAA Division III national championship 65-59. The title is the fifth in program history and first since 2001.
“Once you are fortunate enough to experience one and then it’s been about 10 years, you realize how hard, how special, how much you must have a little left, how fortunate you are to have that magical chemistry, and you try so hard…Once you separate yourself, you realize how special this is,” Head Coach Nancy Fahey said.
Junior Alex Hoover scored a career-high 18 points, including 10 of 11 free throws.
“She made a ton of clutch plays,” Fahey said of Hoover. “I know she led us in scoring, but I think you need to pick up where those points actually came. She’s very confident and runs the team, so when she was on the free-throw line, I’ll take that any day.” Fahey was also named D3Hoops.com National Coach of the Year.
After being shut out 10-0 by Amherst to start the semifinal game, McFarlin made sure the University scored on its first possession with a quick jumper. In her final game for the Bears, McFarlin scored 14 points and racked up 15 rebounds, leaving her with 1,012 career rebounds at the University. She was awarded tournament Most Outstanding Player.
“I think we just came out knowing that you have to do four minutes at a time. If you win the first four minutes, then you go to the next four minutes,” McFarlin said. “Those media timeouts actually helped to make the game into smaller pieces, so I think we did that really well.”
No team led by more than six points in the first half, while the University took a 24-20 lead into halftime.
Hope fired back in the second half, briefly taking the lead on a basket by junior Carrie Snikkers. But baskets by senior Zoë Unruh, junior Kathryn Berger and Hoover staked Wash. U. to a 39-33 lead with 13:20 to go. It would hold for the remainder of the contest. Hope would cut the deficit to four with less than a minute to go on a three-pointer by senior Jenny Cowen, but Hoover and McFarlin locked up the victory at the free-throw line, bringing Washington University the national title.
Despite some rocky possessions, the Bears rallied around a tough defense to control the tempo and remain ahead for most of the game. The Red and Green held the Flying Dutch to just 19.4 percent shooting in the first half and allowed Hope to shoot just 31.3 percent for the entire game.
“With the turnaround that we talked about, there’s not much that you can do in preparation except what we’ve done in the past, and that was our poise defensively, and they did it,” Fahey said. “They just did a lot of things right at the right time, and I’m really proud of them.”
Snikkers led all scorers with 22 points and 10 rebounds. “I don’t think that we played a poor game,” said Brian Morehouse, head coach of Hope. “I just think that they played a little bit better than we did. They really made big free throws going down the stretch.”
The path to the championship game, as any, was no easy feat.
“It was our want for it that got us here,” senior Stacey Niese said.
The University rolled over Maryville College (Tenn.) 81-67 and No. 13 Thomas More College 80-64 in the first two rounds before defeating Mount Union College 76-57. In a rematch of last year’s national championship game, the Red and Green fought off a comeback by No. 5 George Fox University and earned a national semifinal spot with their 59-52 win.
The national semifinal contest against No. 1 Amherst proved to be the biggest hurdle, and a spot in the national championship game was in doubt from the beginning. The Lord Jeffs jumped out to a 10-0 advantage before Berger responded off the bench with a bucket. The Bears hung in but went into the locker room down 28-20.
The Red and Green, faced with a large deficit with just seven minutes left in the game, took over the game. “It was to the point that it was now or never,” McFarlin said. “If we were going to make a run, we had to do it then because they were too good offensively [for us] to make a run later.”
Back-to-back three-pointers by Unruh and Schaeperkoetter made the semifinal a one-point game. Berger then gave the Bears the first lead of the game with just over three minutes to go on a free throw. The teams would tie four times in the final five minutes, and a missed jumper by McFarlin sent the game into overtime.
The University got off to a quick lead in the extra period on a three-pointer by Unruh, and the team never looked back. The Bears outscored the Lord Jeffs 22-11 to win the game 86-75.
The senior class at the University leaves with an overall record of 99-21, a national title and two second-place finishes. “They deserve every second of it,” Berger said. “They care about this team more than anything.”
For the seniors, it was the third time that gave them the ultimate honor. “To end your career on such a high note, I can’t ask for more,” senior Janice Evans said.
“It was a perfect way to end,” said Unruh, who was also named to the all-tournament team. “That’s how we built our season.”
Check out an audio slideshow of the game.