After a narrow 63-59 loss to Marian University in the Crossroads League tourney championship game, the Foresters will breathlessly await the announcement of the at-large bids to see if they will have the chance to return to Sioux City, Iowa to compete on the national platform.
Going into the night’s game, senior Courtney Baker was aware of the task at hand.
“I’m expecting a hard fought, tiring game,” Baker said. “Defense is key for us as we have our hands full with [Marian’s] numerous screens, deep shooters and amazing driving game.”
The dominant offensive orchestrator is regarded as one of the top players in the league as she leads the conference in assists, averaging 4.83 per game. Baker had 17 points in the night’s contest with teammates sophomore Miranda Palmer and junior Amelia Recker adding 16 and 13 points respectively.
HU put up a tenacious fight against a suffocating Knight defense. Coming out of the first half with a six-point MU lead, the Foresters would rebound from as much as a 12 point deficit in the final minutes of the game. Behind what Marian announcers termed “the three-headed beast,” Recker, Palmer and Baker would combine to slowly chip away the Marian lead. Baker would give her team the one-point lead with 1:26 remaining.
Knight senior Kaylee Walters made a crucial basket off an assist. Gaining momentum, Marian would hold off HU to win its first league tourney title.
As of March 2, the number 22 Foresters are unsure of their future. Head coach Lori Culler said that winning outright would have eased the team’s nerves with a secured position.
“At this point it looks like all of the at-large bids to the National Tournament are going to be taken before they get to us at number 22 in the rankings,” Culler said before the night’s contest, “so we are glad at this point to still have a say in our own destiny.”
With Marian edging out HU for the automatic bid and top seed Indiana Wesleyan University winning the outright bid from the CL regular season championship, the team will need to secure one of the at-large bids distributed by team ranking.
Senior Amelia Echemann is optimistic about her team’s chances, saying it would “mean the world” to her to repeat the trip to Nationals.
“I’ve had so much faith in this team from the start of the season, and now we are about to head back to Iowa,” Echemann said. “We came in with a bang, and we will leave with a bang. This team always gives 110% so it means we are giving it all we’ve got.”
Baker echoed her fellow senior’s sentiments, calling the opportunity to return to Nationals the “chocolate syrup on top of the sundae.”
“This season has been amazing in so many different aspects,” she said. “We have created this special bond with each other, and I’m not ready for it to be over yet.”