Junior post player Bri Monahan (Hutchinson, Minn.) hit a jumper with seven seconds remaining to lead the Gustavus women’s basketball team to a 71-70 win over league-leading College of Saint Benedict on Wednesday in St. Joseph. Monahan finished with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field.
The Gusties started strong, leading for much of the first half. A three-pointer by sophomore guard Jess Vadnais (Hudson, Wis.) gave the Gusties a 19-13 lead, their largest of the game, with 11:12 to go in the half. Saint Ben’s responded, going on a 8-2 run over the next 4:42 to tie the game at 21-21. Gustavus regained the lead at 27-25 with 4:04 to play until halftime on a jumper by Monahan. A pair of Monahan free throws with 25 seconds left put the Gusties up by four points, but Blazer forward Ellie Boone put back an Anna Heikenen miss as time expired to cut the Gustie halftime lead to 31-29.
Saint Ben’s opened the second half on a tear, outscoring the Gusties 13-2 over the half’s first five minutes to take a nine-point lead with 14:52 remaining in the game. Behind six points by Monahan and another five by first-year guard Ashley Raymo (Worthington, Minn.), the Gusties closed the gap over the next seven-and-a-half minutes and took a 52-51 lead on a jumper by Vadnais with 7:08 left on the clock. The teams fell into a see-saw battle for the lead during game’s final few minutes, with neither team leading by more than a basket during the game’s final 6:41.
A jumper by Darby Noreen gave Saint Benedict a 67-65 lead with 1:28 remaining, but surrendered the lead 11 seconds later as a jumper by Monahan tied the game for the 13th and final time. A pair of clutch free throws by first-year guard Emily Nelson (Mankato, Minn.) pushed the Gusties into the lead with 39 seconds remaining, but the Blazers would respond as Anna Heikenen drained a three-pointer to put Saint Ben’s back up by a point at 70-69 with 26 seconds to go before Monahan’s bucket put the Gusties in the lead for good. Saint Benedict had one final shot at the victory, but Gustavus forced a turnover with 0.4 seconds on the clock to preserve the 71-70 victory.
After shooting only 37.9 percent (11-29) from the field in the first half, the Gusties hit on 60.7 percent of their shots in the second half (17-28) to push their field goal percentage for the game to 49.1 percent. Saint Ben’s, which saw an eight-game winning streak come to an end, shot 44 percent from the field in each half.
Aside from Monahan’s game-high 26 points, the Gusties were led by Vadnais, who picked up 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Gustavus also picked up big games off the bench from Nelson and Raymo. Raymo finished with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, including a three-pointer, while Nelson finished with eight points, including the two key free throws down the stretch. Vicky Peterson (So., Plymouth, Minn.) pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
The Blazers were led by Heikenen’s 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Noreen added another 19 points and seven rebounds.
An intense game throughout, there were 13 ties and 16 lead changes.
The Gusties moved to 10-3 overall, 8-2 in the MIAC with the win. St. Ben’s dropped to 11-3 overall, 8-2 in the league. Concordia (10-4 overall, 8-2 MIAC) created a three-way tie at the top of the MIAC at the midway point of the league slate with a 63-56 win over Hamline in St. Paul. Gustavus will continue its seven-game road swing by traveling to Hamline for another MIAC contest on Saturday afternoon.