The second-seeded Gustavus women’s basketball team advanced to the MIAC Championship Game for the first time in five years with a 61-49 victory over third-seeded Concordia Thursday night in St. Peter, Minn. After a tightly contested first half, the Gusties came out firing in the second to end the Cobbers’ season on Gus Young Court.
“It feels great to be back in the championship game,” head coach Mickey Haller acknowledged. “We are a seasoned team with high expectations on our players and they came through tonight. They played very well and are ready to go take on St. Thomas.”
Junior forward Abby Rothenbuehler was a major factor in the Gusties strong second half performance, scoring 12 of her game-high 18 points in the final 20 minutes. Rothenbuehler ended the night with an 8-for-11 showing from the field, including 2-for-3 from behind the arc and hauled in seven rebounds. Molly Geske and Eli Benz also reached double digits with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Geske’s 12 points moved her into third place all-time on Gustavus’ scoring list as she hit the 1400-point mark in her career.
To start the game, Benz got the ball rolling with the first four points. After a jumper by Rothenbuehler at the 16:24 mark for a 6-2 Gustavus advantage, the Gusties and Cobbers literally went shot-for-shot on each end of the court until two free throws by Tricia Sorensen knotted the game at 14 apiece at the midway point of the half. Gustavus answered with four unanswered points, but the Cobbers came right back with seven unanswered of their own for a 21-18 lead with 3:51 left in the half. The Black and Gold battled back, though, and took a 27-23 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Ava Perry began the second half with a layup and the Gusties rolled from there on. Gustavus kicked off the final 20 minutes with a 17-to-2 run and led 44-25 at the 13:19 point. The Cobbers slowly chipped away at the lead and a three-pointer by Alley Fisher brought the score to 51-40 with 7:20 to go, but Rothenbuehler replied with a trey on the ensuing possession and the Gusties then cruised to the 12-point victory.
Gustavus shot above its season average from the field, converting 26-of-55 (47.3-percent) shots, while the Cobbers made 20-of-49 (40.8-percent) from the floor. The Gusties also won the rebounding battle 35-to-24 and forced 17 Cobber turnovers, while handing over 11 themselves. Neither team got into much foul trouble with each squad committing 10 fouls. The Gusties shot 6-for-10 from the line and the Cobbers went 4-for-4.
Three Cobbers turned in double-digit performances. Fisher led Concordia off the bench with 14 points, while Alexandra Lippert and Sorensen posted 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Gusties will travel to St. Paul on Saturday to take on No. 1 St. Thomas for the MIAC Championship at 3:00 p.m. The Tommies are undefeated in conference play and are currently riding a 25-game win streak after defeating fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s 58-45 in the semifinals.
“We’re not going to try and change the world in a day, because that’s what we have to prepare for our next game,” Haller said. “We are just going to go out and play our game, stay relaxed and let things flow to see what happens.”