The record book will show the Bearcats lost 52-39 to No. 1 seed Washburn Friday afternoon at Municipal Auditorium in the quarterfinals of the MIAA Tournament.
“I thought both teams battled,” Northwest coach Mark Kellogg said. “I am proud of our kids. We held them to 52. You would think that would give you a chance. We kept battling.
“It wasn’t our night. You have to credit Washburn. Their length and size bothered us.”
The details missing from the raw numbers were the way the Bearcats improved throughout the season and never quit even during a few losing streaks.
Before the season started, Northwest was picked to finish next to last.
Northwest, which finished 15-13, exceeded expectations. The Bearcats not only made the conference tournament, they went on the road and won their first round game 77-72 at Missouri Southern, a team that beat them 64-55 on Jan 3 in Joplin.
“It was a huge step in the right direction, playing here in this gym, sitting here in the press conference, some of them have never done this before,” Kellogg said. “Every experience helps us. We had a goal to get here.
“There were certain junctures we didn’t know if that was going to be the case. We got a great road win the other night and felt good about that.
“We want to take the next step and hope to be back. Next year we want to come with the expectations to win one of these games. We have to remember this feeling of how bad it hurts and how bad we want to work so it doesn’t happen again.”
Northwest entered the quarterfinals as a heavy underdog. A No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 8 seed in the MIAA Women’s Tournament. The Bearcats were one seed lower at No. 9.
The Bearcats came out undaunted by the odds they faced. Freshman Tember Schechinger started the game with a three-pointer, staking Northwest to an early 3-0 lead.
Schechinger followed with a two-point field goal and suddenly, Northwest held a 5-0 lead.
A few minutes later, Schechinger drained another three-pointer to give Northwest a 10-5 lead. Schechinger finished with 10 points.
“Every time we play Northwest, it takes a little knock in the nose to get us started,” Washburn coach Ron McHenry said.
The Bearcats were also playing good defense, forcing Washburn to rush its shots.
“This was a big ego booster for us,” said sophomore Maggie Marnin, who finished with 10 points. “A lot of us have never been here before. It was a great experience.”
The Lady Blues slowly began to show why they finished the regular season as conference champions. They took a 14-12 lead on a three-pointer by senior Laura Kinderknecht and never trailed again.
Northwest managed one tie at 14-14. Washburn, though, scored the eight of the last 10 points in the first half for a 22-16 halftime lead.
Early in the second half, Northwest stayed close, especially after a basket by Marnin that made it 24-20.
When Washburn extended its lead to 32-22, Northwest didn’t have enough fire power to make up a double-digit deficit.
The biggest difference in the second half was shooting percentage. Northwest shot 26 percent in both halves. Washburn improved from 29 percent in the first half to 52 percent in the second half.
The Bearcats, who started three sophomores and one freshman, will learn from this experience.
“We have a really positive outlook for next year,” Marnin said. “We made huge strides. With the returning people back, we are excited to get next season started already.”
— NWMSU Sports Information —