No. 2 Wartburg Women Going Back To NCAA Final Four [Watch]
Wartburg is making a return to trip the Final Four of the Division III NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.
The second-ranked Knights (31-0) secured their spot in the national semifinals by holding off a late rally by East Texas Baptist at Levick Arena in Waverly Saturday night (March 10, 2018). Wartburg's 65-61 victory over the unranked Tigers, in a home venue filled to capacity with 2,100 fans, advanced the Knights to the Final Four for the second time in three seasons.
"This senior class, they're amazing," head coach Bob Amsberry said afterward. "They made a decision to get this done. They made the decision about three years ago after their freshman year to have the best culture possible and they've lived it."
"We had the mindset coming in as freshmen that we were going to change this program and do something big," said senior guard Katie Sommer, who finished the night with 14 points. "We stuck to that and I think we deserve it. We put the hard work in and created this culture that no one can touch. It's very rewarding."
Sommer (Cedar Rapids) was one of three players who tallied double figures for Wartburg. Senior Morgan Neuendorf (Plainfield) led all scorers with 19 points. Senior Miranda Murphy (Alleman) added 13.
The Knights started the game slow, before building a 19-point lead. Trailing 15-7 after the first period, Wartburg opened the second quarter with a 13-0 run that put the Knights ahead, 20-15. East Texas Baptist cut the margin to 27-25 at intermission.
Wartburg blistered the nets after the halftime break, making seven of its first 11 shots from the field. The Knights scored 17-straight points to open the third quarter, a run that extended their lead to 44-25 at the 4:52 mark. They led 52-36 heading into the final period, when East Texas Baptist fought back.
The Tigers outscored Wartburg 23-9 over the first eight minutes of the final period. A 12-0 run by East Texas Baptist cut the Knights' advantage to 61-59 at the 2:00 mark, then the Tigers missed a lay-up that would have tied the score.
A steal by Kristie Sommer and two free throws by Neuendorf extended Wartburg's edge to 63-59 at the 1:10 mark. Moments later, the Knights were cutting down the net and celebrating their second sectional championship.
Wartburg's victory ended a magical run for the Tigers (25-7), who won just three games last season. East Texas Baptist made the Elite Eight by upsetting two marque programs in the NCAA Tournament, No. 19 Whitman and No. 6 St. Thomas (Minn.).
UP NEXT: The Knights face Bowdoin (pronounced "BOW'din") in the national semifinals at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn. on Friday, March 16. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 7:30 PM, following the conclusion of the 5 PM semifinal between No. 1-ranked Amherst (31-0) and Thomas More (30-1).
ABOUT BOWDOIN: The school is located in Brunswick, Maine. Like Wartburg, the fifth-ranked Polar Bears (28-2) are in the Final Four for the second time in school history. Their previous trip to the national semifinals was in 2004.
Videos: Courtesy of Wartburg Knights via YouTube