In semifinal action of the Mid-Central Conference tournament, the NAIA Division II 16th-ranked Huntington University Foresters fought off the Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats for a 67-64 win and earned a spot in the tournament title game. Taylor University, the #4 seed in the tournament, upset top-seeded Bethel College 66-54 in the other semifinal, so Huntington will host the Trojans at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 2.
The two teams played to a 6-6 tie to begin the contest, but the Foresters’ defense came up big holding IWU to just two points over a 10-minute span. HU took advantage of the Wildcat drought and built a 22-8 cushion with 6:13 to play. When Jenna Donaldson picked up her second foul at the 4:17 mark, she joined two other Forester starters on the bench. IWU was then able to gain some momentum down the stretch and trimmed HU’s lead to just 28-22 at the break.
The Wildcats emerged from the locker room and immediately picked up where they left off. They outscored the Foresters 13-5 to take their first lead of the game at 35-33 at the 15:18 mark and a seesaw battle commenced. The lead changed hands 10 times over the next 13 minutes ending in a stalemate at 59-59 with 2:19 to play.
Kelsey Green was at the line looking to give HU a one-point lead, but when she missed, Donaldson came up with the offensive rebound. The Foresters worked the ball around and Lauren Davenport finally got loose in the lane. When the Wildcat defender stepped up, Davenport dished to Courtney Beerbower who laid it in to put HU up 61-59 with 2:00 to play. The Foresters’ defense held at the other end and HU whittled the shot clock down looking for a good shot. It was Davenport again who drove a seam in IWU’s defense and then kicked it out to Sarah Miller on the wing. Miller drained the three putting HU up 64-59 with 1:03 left.
Rachel Steinbarger was fouled on the Wildcats’ next possession and she dropped in the pair of free throws. IWU then fouled Donaldson as she was bringing the ball up the floor. Donaldson nailed both charity tosses to regain HU’s five-point advantage with 41 seconds to play. The Wildcats missed two 3-point attempts at the other end and fouled Miller with four seconds to go. Miller hit one of two and IWU’s Andrea Fichter knocked down a three at the buzzer giving HU the 67-64 victory.
Miller paced the Foresters with 15 points. Green chipped in 13 off the bench and Beerbower and Donaldson both finished with 10. Steinbarger took game-high honors with 19 points and eight rebounds. LeAnn Douglas had 14 points, Elaine Hessel added 12 and Fichter finished with 10.