MOUNT PLEASANT – Melanie McCreight (Jr.-Winfield, Iowa) hit two go-ahead free throws with 12 seconds left and Iowa Wesleyan College advanced to the Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament final by outlasting St. Ambrose University 75-72 Saturday afternoon at Ruble Arena.
The top seeded Tigers (#13 ranked in NAIA Division II) got 35 points from Jessi Beachey (Jr.-Fisher, Ill.), one off the school record, and needed every one to defeat the #4 seeded Queen Bees in the MCC semifinals. IWC now will host #2 seed Grand View University (#17 in NAIA Division II) in the tournament championship game at home Monday night at 7 p.m., with the winner receiving an automatic berth to the NAIA Division II National Tournament March 10-16 in Sioux City.
Saturday’s game went to the wire as St. Ambrose came back from a 14-point first half deficit to take the lead early in the second half and lead for a good portion of the half. The two teams also swapped the lead eight times in the second half and were tied on three other occasions.
Both teams played to their strengths, with IWC out-rebounding SAU 65-29 and getting 35 points and nine rebounds from Beachey, as well as 15 rebounds from Sheray Brown (Jr.-Detroit, Mich.) and 12 rebounds and 13 assists from Anna Jones (So.-Cornell, Ill.). St. Ambrose counted with 12 three-pointers made and had just 14 turnovers while the Tigers turned the ball over 26 times and made just 2 of 18 from three-point range.
The Tigers controlled the first half most of the way and built a 37-23 lead with 3:43 left in the first half and shot 60.6% in the first half, pounding the ball inside to Beachey, who had 25 points by halftime. But the Queen Bees finished the half making six of seven field goals, including three three-pointers, and whittled the margin down to 46-40 by halftime.
St. Ambrose then started the second half with seven straight points to take its first lead at 47-46 with 18:55 to play, and the game would be close the rest of the way. IWC briefly broke free with a 9-0 run capped by a three-point play by McCreight that made it 67-60 with 6:48 to go, but SAU came back with 10 straight points and led 70-67 with 2:37 to play.
The teams exchanged scores and Jones hit a jumper with 1:13 left to make it 72-71. Both teams missed on their next chances, but SAU’s Ali Dolphin was fouled with 31 seconds left and missed. After a timeout, the Tigers got three chances at the basket before McCreight was fouled and hit two free throws to give Wesleyan the lead.
The Queen Bees then had possession a chance to take the lead in the final seconds, but IWC pressured defensively and Brown came up with the steal with 3.6 seconds left. She then made both free throws, and St. Ambrose’s final attempt was stopped with a backcourt steal by Jill Ginder (Jr.-Olney, Ill.).
Beachey finished making 14 of 25 shots and 7-for-10 from the free throw line. Her 35 points were one off the school record set by Stacey Scharer on Feb. 7, 1998 against Marycrest International University and tied by Allison Falls on Feb. 1, 2006 against Grand View.
McCreight added 20 points and hit 6 of 6 from the free throw line, while Jones added eight points to just miss a triple-double. The Tigers finished shooting 41.4% (29-for-70), going cold in the second half and making just 9 of 37 shots (24.3%). IWC moved to 24-7 this season, winning its 13th straight game, and is now one win from tying the school record for wins in a season set in 2005-06.
Dolphin led the Bees with 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Megan Cash added 18 points, including six three-pointers, and SAU finished 26 of 70 from the floor (37.1%) but 12 of 31 from three-point range (38.7%). The Queen Bees dropped to 24-8 overall and now will wait to see if they can grab an at-large bid to the NAIA Division II national tourney.
The Tigers will aim for their fourth MCC tourney championship in five years on Monday and will host the championship for the second straight year. Admission for the game is $6 for adults and $2 for students, and a live broadcast will be available at www.iwc.edu/onlinemedia.
For more information regarding the IWC basketball programs or any of the Tiger athletic teams, contact sports information director Adam Glatczak (319-385-6306 phone; 319-385-6384 FAX; email@example.com e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics.
Box score #1 IWC 75 #4 SAU 72
MCC Women's Basketball Tournament Bracket