NEW ULM - St. Scholastica earned a trip to the NCAA Division III national tournament with a 76-67 victory over Martin Luther College in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference women's basketball championship game Saturday.
Its the first-ever trip to the national tournament for the Saints.
The Knights trailed by two points at halftime, but they were unable to get into a good rhythm shooting and shot only 35 percent for the game.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Martin Luther College’s Alex Anthon (4) shoots the ball as Kayla Heisler of St. Scholastica defends on the play during the first half Saturday at MLC in New Ulm.
Alex Anton led the Knights with a season-high 26 points. Brittany Gossen added 17 points and six rebounds.
"I think we started pressing a little bit as far as our shots go," MLC head coach Larry Czer said. "We had trouble shooting tonight and we weren't much better at the free throw line."
The Saints went inside often to Schellbach early in the game and built a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes of play. Schellbach led the Saints with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
But the Knights slowly fought back and tied the game at 12 on a basket by Anton. The rest of the first half was a back-and-forth battle as the Saints re-took the lead at 20-16. They later went up 23-18 on a 3-pointer by Schellbach. Schellbach had 13 points in the first half.
The Knights managed to make a run late in the half, closing the 27-22 gap that the Saints had produced. Anton hit a 3 to make it 27-25 with 2:21 left and the Knights took a one-point lead at 28-27, but a 3-pointer by Holly Peterson with 45 seconds left in the half gave the Saints a 30-28 lead at the break.
After a brief tie early in the second half, the Saints scored the next seven points before the Knights cut it to 37-36. At that point, the Saints began a run and the Knights couldn't get enough offense going to answer. The Knights went more than seven minutes without a basket.
A basket by Erin Frase put the Saints ahead at 54-41 and the Knights couldn't close the gap fast enough. Frase finished with 20 points for the Saints.
The Saints outrebounded MLC 52-32 in the contest and the Saints shot 43 percent from the field for the game.
The Knights finish the season with a record of 12-15 overall. With a young roster, its possible they might be in the same situation again next year.
"It's getting to that point where we're starting to be successful," Czer said. "We just gotta continue to work at getting better."