College women's basketball: UWS denied in WIAC title game
The last players out of the Wisconsin-Superior women's basketball locker room on Sunday were the Yellowjackets seniors, the "Super Six" as they call themselves, with arms locked as they gathered for a group hug, and tears flowed like rain.
The last players out of the Wisconsin-Superior women’s basketball locker room on Sunday were the Yellowjackets seniors, the “Super Six” as they call themselves, with arms locked as they gathered for a group hug, and tears flowed like rain.
If Sunday was indeed the end for this group, they gave it one heckuva ride.
Katelyn Kuehl had 16 points and eight rebounds as Wisconsin-Oshkosh held on for a 66-61 victory over the Yellowjackets in the WIAC tournament title game before 806 at Mertz Mortorelli Gym, earning the conference’s automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III tournament.
Super senior Sally Linzmeier had 26 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists in yet another classic performance for UWS (19-8), which finds out at 1:30 p.m. today on ncaa.com if it will make the NCAA playoffs with an at-large bid.
“All we can do is prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” Linzmeier said. “There’s a slight chance we’ll get in, but we’ve been in this position before. You don’t want to get your hopes so high, only to be crushed again.
UWS, which is in its final year in the WIAC before moving into the UMAC next season, went 19-8 in 2012-13 and didn’t make the NCAA tournament. The Yellowjackets advanced to the WIAC tournament championship game last year and didn’t get in, falling 75-69 to those same Titans from Oshkosh.
Unlike both those years, however, the Yellowjackets performed much better in one of the toughest conferences in the nation this season, going 12-4 in WIAC play and winning the first conference title in program history. And of their three losses to start the season, one was against a Division II opponent (Minnesota Duluth) and the other against St. Norbert, which has gone 22-3 and is a tourney lock.
“I’d love for UWS to make the tournament, and I think they could win some games if they get in,” Oshkosh coach Brad Fischer said. “Linzmeier might be the most valuable player who has ever played in this conference, just because she does so many things for them. The problem is we spend all season beating each other up in our league and the losses add up. So when they start looking at the numbers at the end, it doesn’t look as good on paper. It’s going to be tough, but I hope to God they get in. They deserve to be in.”
WIAC commissioner Gary Karner presented Linzmeier with the conference’s scholar-athlete of the year award before the game. Karner listed Linzmeier’s incredibly long list of accomplishments and activities she is involved with, pausing at the end to catch his breath. He just shook his head as if to say, “wow.”
Then the game started, and Linzmeier had to regain her focus.
Alex Richard had 10 points to stake Oshkosh (22-6) to a 31-28 halftime lead, with junior forward Hadley Skalmoski having eight of her 11 points in the first half as UWS kept it close.
“I felt like the pressure was on Superior,” Fischer said. “This was a big day for their program and the city. They had a great crowd, and I felt like the more we could stay on top, the more the pressure might get to them.”
Fischer said Linzmeier is one of the top two best players in Division III, while UWS coach Don Mulhern thinks she is the best. Linzmeier certainly made her case in the second half. After only having six points in the first half, she erupted for 20 points after the break, trying to will the Yellowjackets to victory.
But UWS’ shooting proved to be its downfall, going 34.4 percent for the game and 30.3 percent in the second half, including some easy misses inside. The Yellowjackets were just 3-for-15 from beyond the arc.
While UWS had to settle for twos when it did score, Oshkosh continued to match it by making free throws at the other end. The Titans made 20 of 27 from the line, never allowing the Yellowjackets to catch up, while adding a pair of timely 3-pointers late in the second half. Junior forward Dana Karlstad added 11 points for UWS.
“We fought all year. We never gave up,” Linzmeier said. “Whenever we had to, we always dug deep and leaned on each other, and that’s what we did again today. We just came up a little short.”
Linzmeier’s iron will was on display with just under a minute remaining. She let the inbounds pass bounce toward half court to save time as she surveyed the court. Just then an Oshkosh defender came up to challenge and Linzmeier grabbed the ball, blew past her went in for a layup while drawing the ball. The three-point play pulled UWS to within three at 59-56 with 48.7 to play, but then the Titans made seven of eight from the line to close it out.
“I don’t think you can put into words the importance of what Sally has done for this program and school,” Mulhern said. “It would be a wonderful addition to the tournament for her to be able to show what she can do, but there are so many variables involved. I hope it doesn’t end. It has been an incredible ride, beyond special. This has been a true storybook season.”
And hopefully for UWS, there is still at least one more chapter yet to be written.
WISCONSIN-OSHKOSH 66, WISCONSIN-SUPERIOR 61
Oshkosh - Taylor Schmidt 4-8 4-4 13, Ashley Neustifter 1-5 0-0 3, Marissa Selner 4-8 1-4 9, Katelyn Kuehl 3-5 9-10 16, Alex Richard 3-7 5-7 11, Morgan Kokta 1-6 1-2 4, Eliza Campbell 0-2 0-0 0, Madeline Staples 5-6 0-0 10, Alicia Tollefson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 20-27 66.
Superior - Brynn Liljander 1-8 0-0 2, Grace Kennedy 2-5 0-0 4, Bailee Bartunek 1-2 0-0 2, Sally Linzemier 7-20 12-14 26, Vanessa Lebens 0-1 0-0 0, Amelia Leger 0-1 0-2 0, Hadley Skalmoski 5-6 1-4 11, Dana Karlstad 4-11 1-1 11, Allyssa Lindberg 1-5 0-0 3, Sarah Lekson 0-1 0-0 0, Carmen Watson 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 22-64 14-21 61.
Halftime - Oshkosh 31-28. 3-point goals - Oshkosh 4-9 (Schmidt 1-1, Neustifter 1-2, Kuehl 1-2, Kokta 1-3, Tollefson 0-1), UWS 3-15 (Liljander 0-2, Linzmeier 0-4, Leger 0-1, Karlstad 2-4, Lindberg 1-4). Fouled out - None. Rebounds - Oshkosh 39 (Richard 10), UWS 30 (Linzmeier 7). Assists - Oshkosh 11 (Schmidt, Kokta 3), UWS 9 (Linzmeier 4). Total Fouls - UWS 23, Oshkosh 17. A - 806.