March 12 marked the closing page in yet another chapter of head coach Lori Culler’s career as the Lady Foresters ended their season, losing 63-54 in the first round of NAIA Division II tournament to the College of Saint Mary.
The first part of the initial 20 minutes was filled with a constant back-and-forth momentum. Grappling with the Flames for the lead, it would be sophomore Miranda Palmer with the two pointer with minutes left in the first half. She catalyzed the Forester offense on a six-point scoring run. Aided by teammate junior Amelia Recker, HU walked into the locker room at a comfortable 32-24 score.
Come second half the Flames would ignite behind star player junior Desaundra Young, who paced her team with 27 points and 19 rebounds. Meanwhile, the Foresters would be unable contest a ten-point scoring run put together by St. Mary.
A determined defense anchored by senior Amelia Echemann was affected by the foul trouble early on of junior Jaclene Bonnema. Echemann’s desire was apparent on her face as she guarded Flame forwards. Meanwhile, fellow senior Courtney Baker was doing her part on offense, posting a team high 11 rebounds. The senior speedster swatted the ball away from the Flames, combining with Palmer for the fast break point, putting the Foresters within five.
Despite the evident desire to take the win, the Foresters’ going 0 of 18 from beyond the arc severely hindered their scoring efforts.
Culler attributed her team’s shooting foes partially to St. Mary’s defense but said nerves were also a factor.
“I also think that nerves begin to factor in after you’ve missed a few,” Culler said. “You can control many things in a game, but shooting is one that can sometimes have a mind of its own.”
Recker, carrying her team with 21 points, said that her team does look to her to score.
“At this point in the season everyone is trying to do their best to keep the team playing games,” Recker said. “We have a great group of girls this year, and I was not ready to stop playing basketball with them, so I was going to do everything I could to make that happen. It just happened to not be enough this time.”
Baker said that despite not having the best shooting game, her team was determined not to let that solely determine the outcome.
“Our team isn’t a team that quits,” Baker said. “The girls are warriors, and I think everyone got to see that in the game.”
While the team will sorely miss both Baker and Echemann, Culler said that she was thankful to have the opportunity to get her two seniors to Sioux City one last time.
“I was especially happy for our two seniors to be able to finish their careers with one more trip to the National Tournament,” Culler said. “They are two of only three players in our program that have had the opportunity to play in the tournament three times in their careers.”
The Foresters finished the season with a 22-10 record.