CRESTVIEW HILLS, KY — A cold stretch through the middle two quarters was too much to overcome as a historic season came to an end for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor basketball team Friday evening in Kentucky. The Cru fell to Washington-St. Louis 63-46 in the Sectional Round of the NCAA Division III National Championships to close out the best Division III era season in program history.
The two teams traded buckets to open the second half before Stephanie Botkin hit a three-pointer and Madeline Homoly added two free-throws to give WashU its biggest lead of the game to that point at 34-22. Rachel Sondag added a three-pointer to push it out to a 15-point lead. The Bears’ lead would grow to 22 points before Hannah Holt’s free-throw cut it to 51-30 at the end of the third period. UMHB pulled to within 19 early in the final stanza, but WashU quickly took the lead back over 20. Aubrie Elliott hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 17 with 1:52 remaining and UMHB pulled back to the final margin with 26 seconds left to play.
Allaira Jones scored the Cru’s first four points and Kendall Rollins added five in a row as UMHB opened a 9-4 lead early in the game. The Bears scored the next six points to take a 10-9 lead, but D’Ashiah Williams gave the lead back to the Cru with a lay-up and UMHB led 15-12 after the opening ten minutes. The Cru went cold in the early going of the second quarter as WashU opened the period with a 13-2 run to grab a 25-17 lead. Elliott converted a three-point play to pull UMHB back to within 25-20 with one minute left in the opening half, but the Bears added a basket for a 27-20 halftime lead. The Cru shot just 27 percent from the field in the first half and turned the ball over 11 times. WashU shot 31 percent as a team and was 1-9 from three-point range in the first two quarters.
Alicia Blackwell led the Cru with eight points and seven rebounds. Holt and Rollins added seven points apiece as Holt went over 1,000 points for her Cru career. UMHB shot 50 percent from the field in the fourth quarter but hit just 30 percent for the game. The Cru was 4-17 from three-point range, turned the ball over 17 times and scored just 15 combined points in the second and third periods.
Kristina Schmelter came off the bench to lead the Bears with 14 points on 7-14 shooting. Homoly added 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds. WashU shot 39 percent from the field as a team and held a slight rebounding edge at 41-40 on the night.
UMHB finishes its season at 27-4 and the Cru advanced to the NCAA Division III National Championships for the first time in program history. The loss closes out the careers of UMHB seniors Ashley Caldwell and Aubrie Elliott. Washington University improves to 22-6 on the year with the win and the Bears will face the Thomas More/Transylvania winner in the Sectional Final on Saturday.