By Justin Woodard
Despite only leading by two points at the half, the Warhawks women’s basketball team used a 26-6 run midway through the second half to send Simpson College home for the offseason, defeating the Storm 76-63.
Storm senior Kate Nielsen came into Friday night’s game averaging over 22 points and eight rebounds per game and is a Player of the Year candidate. She did her part, scoring 28 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to stop the ‘Hawks.
“They just went on spurts that we didn’t stop and they got too far ahead,” Nielsen said. “That was about it.”
In the middle of the ’Hawks’ 26-6 run, there was a 7:14 stretch in which they outscored the Storm 19-2 without allowing a field goal. The defensive intensity picked up for the ’Hawks in the second half as they went on to force 21 turnovers. Junior point guard Kaitlyn Thill led the charge on defense, recording five steals while also adding 11 points.
“We came out of halftime with the mentality that we have to stop them and we have to stop fouling,” Thill said. “A lot of their points came from us fouling in the first half so once we stopped fouling that was a big key.”
Senior Sam Quandt had been struggling of late to put the ball in the basket, but came out of her slump, scoring 19 points while shooting 50 percent from the field.
“I guess it was the whole senior mentality thing and not wanting it to be my last game,” Quandt said on her career game. “I was just trying to do whatever I could do to make sure it wasn’t.”
Freshman Lisa Palmer scored six points but grabbed 12 rebounds, eight of which were on the offensive glass, and held her own against Nielsen. Head coach Keri Carollo could not have been more pleased.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Lisa Palmer because she didn’t give Nielsen anything easy,” Carollo said. “She still scored 28 points and still had a great game but we just wanted to make it really hard for her and really make her have to work for her points.”
The ’Hawks will host Hope College with a chance to go to the Final Four on the line, in the Elite Eight at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 9 at Kachel Gym.