March 23, 2011
Historic season comes to an end in Final Four
By David Boyce
ST. JOSEPH, MO. _ Each time Northwest Missouri State grabbed the momentum and got its boisterous crowd behind them, Michigan Tech delivered a silencer.
Several times it came in the form of 5-foot-5, sophomore guard Sam Hoyt. Her timely buckets early in the second half were a big reason why the Bearcats' wonderful season came to an end in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II women's basketball championship.
Northwest gave a gutsy effort in an 89-78 loss to Michigan Tech Wednesday evening at the St. Joseph Civic Center.
"A lot of times coaches will stand up here and talk about what we did wrong, but the only thing I can talk about is what they did right," Northwest coach Gene Steinmeyer said. "They shot free throws and every time our crowd got into it they hit a big shot.
"They earned the win. We played well. We couldn't get stops. They earned it. Our kids played their hearts out, but we just couldn't get stops."
The Bearcats, who went where no other Northwest women's basketball team has ever gone before, finished their remarkable year with a 29-5 record.
"I'm so proud of my team because we didn't give up," Gentry Dietz said. "This has been the best senior year anyone could ask for. It hurts now, but I will look back and smile."
Michigan Tech, 31-2, moves to the title game and will play Clayton State, 33-1 at 7 p.m. Friday.
For a while in the second half it looked like the Bearcats would march into the championship.
After a sluggish first half, the Bearcats found their stride in the opening minutes of the second half, quickly slicing a six-point halftime deficit.
About 5 minutes into the second half, Northwest tied the game 41-41 on a basket by Kyla Roehrig and that's when the large contingent of Northwest fans erupted to a deafening level.
"It's fun to play in something like that," Steinmeyer said. "I got to thank our fans. They made this a great experience for us."
Dietz added that their fans did everything possible to try to will the Bearcats to victory.
The Huskies, though, never rattled, especially Hoyt, who responded with a field goal. Northwest tied the game again and the crowd roared. Hoyt put the fans back in their seats with another basket.
After a Roehrig free throw, Hoyt drilled a long three-pointer, giving Michigan Tech a 48-44 lead.
"Sam Hoyt decided she was going to take over this game when it was close," Michigan Tech coach Kim Cameron said. "She took the entire team on her shoulder and we were not going to lose this game."
Northwest continued to fight hard and even tied the game at 51-51 on a three-point play by Gentry Dietz with 10:39 left.
But it became clear that the Huskies had a response to everything that the Bearcats threw at them. It was Hoyt who gave Michigan Tech the lead for good when she was fouled on a three-point shot. She made all three free-throws that put the Huskies up 54-51.
"I knew we just had to score to get their crowd to quiet down and to get our team to calm down and realize we are still OK," Hoyt said. "We had screens set up for me to get me open."
Dietz did her best to try to keep Northwest Missouri in striking distance. She scored 29 of her game-high 33 points in the second half.
But the balanced attack of Hoyt on the outside, Lucy Dernovsek with mid-range and three-pointers and the inside play of Lisa Staehlin proved to be too much for the Bearcats.
Hoyt finished with 23, Staehlin had 20 and Dernovsek added 17.
Gabby Curtis scored 20 for Northwest and Roehrig added 15.
"We didn't play as a team at first," Roehrig said. "We got in the locker room and said we can play as a team. Once we started playing as a team though they started hitting threes."
Three-point shooting hurt Northwest. Michigan Tech was 9 for 18 from behind the arc and Northwest missed all five of their 3-point attempts.
Northwest trailed 35-29 at halftime and was fortunate to be down only six.
For most of the first half the Bearcats shot under 35 percent from the field. The only offense that worked for them was passing the ball inside to Roehrig, who converted all three of her field goal attempts.
Roehrig scored 11 points in the first half. The second-best option for Northwest was Curtis, who went 3-for-6 from the field and scored eight points.
It was a struggle for the rest of the Bearcats. Michigan Tech played solid defense and contested nearly every shot.
The Huskies were also efficient on offense, hitting nearly 50 percent of their shots. Lisa Staehlin was nearly automatic inside and Sam Hoyt and Lucy Dernovsek hurt the Bearcats with jumpers.
Northwest scored the first points of the game on a layup by Roehrig, who received a great entry pass from Gentry Dietz. It wasn't a sign of things to come. The Bearcats only had one more assist the rest of the first half.
Meanwhile, Michigan Tech had seven assists. It was one reason why the Huskies were able to take the lead for good in the first half at 11-10 and slowly extend it to 35-27 before intermission.
Curtis gave the Bearcats a bit of momentum heading into halftime when she drove to the basket for a bucket to help Northwest close to six.
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