Led by 31 points from junior post player Bri Monahan (Hutchinson, Minn), the Gustavus Adolphus women’s basketball team advanced to Wednesday’s MIAC Women’s Basketball Playoff Semifinals with a 62-52 win over Bethel Monday night in St. Peter.
Sarah Cotner got the Royals off to a quick 4-0 lead with a pair of field goals in the first minute, but the Gusties battled back to tie the game at 4-4, 6-6 and 8-8 before Bethel went on a 8-3 run to take a 16-11 lead with 12:16 to play in the first half. The lead, Bethel’s largest of the game, was matched two minutes later as Emily Uzpen hit a lay-up to give the Royals an 18-13 lead. Five straight points by Monahan tied the game at 18-18 with 7:48 to play and Vicky Peterson’s (So., Plymouth, Minn.) jumper with 6:54 remaining gave the Gusties their first lead of the game.
A three-pointer by Bethel first-year Blaire Baldwin and a free throw by Annegret Nautsch moved the Royals back into the lead, but a lay-up by Monahan tied the game again at 22-22. Gustavus’ Sara Boldt (Sr., Faribault, Minn.) and Nautsch would trade lay-ups to knot the score at 24-24 with 2:30 remaining, but the Gusties scored the final seven points of the half on an Emily Nelson (Fy., Mankato, Minn.) three-pointer and four Monahan free throws to take a 31-24 lead at intermission.
The Royals opened with three straight free throws by Emily Uzpen to cut the lead to four, but Jess Vadnais (Hudson, Wis.) converted an old-fashioned three-point play to extend the lead back to seven points with 17:30 to play. Five straight Bethel points made it a one-possession game at 34-32 with 16:00 on the clock, but the Royals would get no closer.
Boldt extended the lead to four points with a pair of free throws and after a scoreless stretch of nearly three minutes, Monahan extended the lead to nine at 41-32 with five consecutive points. Uzpen cut into the lead slightly with a pair of free throws at the 9:20 mark, but Monahan added another lay-up and Erin Boese (Jr., Rochester, Minn.) connected from downtown to take the lead to a game-high 12 points at 46-34 with 8:29 to play.
The lead bounced between eight and 12 points over the next seven minutes before a lay-up and a free throw by Monahan pushed the lead back to 12 points with 1:25 to play. The Royals made one final charge in the final minute as JoLynn Thielke hit a three-pointer and Jen Ahlberg hit a layup and a free throw to trail by only six points with 27 seconds showing on the clock. Forced to foul, the Royals put Monahan on the line where she iced the game away by connecting on both attempts. Monahan added a lay-up with 11 seconds remaining to provide the final margin.
The combination of Vadnais and Monahan clamped down on Ahlberg, holding her scoreless until the final 30 seconds of the game. Ahlberg finished 1-of-9 from the field on the evening, but did eclipse the 1300 point mark for her career. She finishes her career with 1302 points.
The Royals pushed the ball inside at times allowing Cotner to pick up a team-high 14 points and six rebounds, while Uzpen added 12 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals. Cotner finished the game 7-of-14 from the field, while Uzpen made the most of her chances at the free throw line, making eight of 11.
Monahan led the way for the Gusties, picking up a game-high marks with 31 points and 13 rebounds on 10-of-22 shooting from the field, including 3-of-3 from behind the three-point line. She also finished 8-of-10 from the free throw line and contributed a pair of blocks and a pair of steals. Vadnais added 15 points in 37 minutes of play, hitting four of 10 shots from the field and six of seven at the line. Gustavus ran much of its offense through the sophomore guard as she picked up a season-high eight assists.
Erin Boese, who missed much of the second half with foul trouble, picked up five points, four rebounds and three big blocked shots in only 13 minutes of play. Vicky Peterson added four points, seven rebounds and five steals off the bench, while Kenzie Consoer came up big defensively for the Gusties with four steals.
With her 31 points, Monahan moved within striking distance of the 1000-point mark for her career. She needs only 13 points against the Cobbers to reach the milestone. Monahan has also scored 473 points this season, eclipsing Angie Peterson’s single-season record of 472 set two seasons ago. She has also joined Linn Erickson as the only Gustavus players to score more than 30 points in a game three times in a season or a career. Erickson accomplished the feat five times in her career, including three times in January 1987.
Vadnais moved past the 700-point mark for her career and past the 400-point mark on the season. She now has 705 career points (19th all-time) and 408 points this season (9th all-time).
Gustavus, which moved to 19-6 with the win, will face second-seeded Concordia Wednesday night at 7:30 pm in Moorhead. The Gusties also improved to 4-0 all-time in home MIAC Playoff games.