After beating Carthage College and losing to Illinois Wesleyan University, Wheaton got an at-large bid to qualify for the NCAA Division III Championship starting this weekend.
Last Friday, Feb. 23, Carthage gave Wheaton a strong run for their money in the first three quarters of the game. Junior Devin Kyler started Wheaton off on the right foot by sinking a fast three-pointer less than 30 seconds into the game. The Thunder maintained their lead through the first seven minutes of the game, but the Lady Reds were able to gain the lead before the second quarter.
The second and third quarter Carthage played well enough to stay with the second-ranked Wheaton team. The Thunder came back from a six point deficit with two minutes left in the first half to gain a three-point lead with little more than 30 seconds left in the half. After getting a defensive rebound with 11 seconds left, senior Kelly Lawson scored a three-pointer in the final seconds to extend Wheaton’s lead to five points. Carthage gained ground in the third quarter, and the game was tied at 49 points going into the final ten minutes of the game.
Wheaton outscored Carthage 20-5 in the final quarter thanks to a strong closing effort by senior Maggie Dansdill, who scored all six of her game points in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Hannah Frazier also sunk a three-pointer early to swing the momentum Wheaton’s way as they pulled farther and farther away from the Lady Reds to end the game with a 15-point lead and a final score of 69-55. Wheaton then advanced to the CCIW Championship game against IWU on Saturday, Feb. 24.
IWU came into the tourney ranked 16th in DIII women’s basketball and the No. 1 ranked team in the CCIW. IWU started the game off strong and scored twice as many points in the first quarter as Wheaton (12-6), but Wheaton came back in the second quarter to have a two point lead at the end of the half. After extending their lead to seven points, an IWU player fouled Wheaton sophomore Hannah Frazier. During the final three and a half minutes of the half, Wheaton was able to score 10 points to IWU’s one free throw point to gain major ground.
The third quarter was very back-and-forth, and IWU was able to gain a one-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Wheaton came out onto the court in the fourth quarter looking like they could complete an upset, but IWU sunk a three-pointer with less than five minutes left. Dansdill sunk a free throw to put Wheaton up by four points, but IWU scored eight-straight points and had a four-point lead with 16 seconds left in the game. Kyler sunk a three-pointer with two seconds left, and Wheaton called a timeout with the score 60-61 and one second left. IWU scored a free throw to end the game and make the final score 62-60. IWU earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Wheaton was able to earn an at-large bid on Monday, Feb. 26 and will advance to the postseason for the 12th time in team history. This Friday, March 2, Wheaton will travel to Holland, Mich. to play Washington University at 5:30 p.m.