St. Scholastica taking a celebratory picture after defeating Sul Ross State Saturday evening. (Twitter/@CSSWBBall)

Women’s Basketball Goes 2-0 In Colorado

Dylan Zimmerman

The College of St. Scholastica women’s basketball team traveled to Colorado Springs, Co. over the break to participate in the Rocky Mountain Thanksgiving Classic. After starting the season 1-1 against two Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opponents, the Saints looked to put together a two-game winning streak out in the mountains. They were able to start that dream with a thrilling 61-58 victory over Colorado College, then finish it the next day against Sul Ross State with a 65-53 win.

Emelia Miner started things off for the Saints with a three against Colorado College, followed by layups from Holly VanKempen and Michala Walther to give CSS an early 7-2 lead. Walther then added another layup and a three pointer of her own to keep the Saints ahead of the Tigers and end the first quarter with a 16-11 lead.

The Tigers cut the CSS lead to one after three minutes of play in the second quarter, but four free throws and a layup from Rashonna Thomas later in the quarter helped CSS secure the lead into the halftime break at 30-25.

The third quarter began as a struggle for both teams, with neither scoring a bucket until the eight-minute mark when Danielle Cieluch put a layup in the net to give CSS a seven-point lead. Cieluch added another layup six minutes later once again to give the Saints a seven-point lead, this time with the scoreboard reading 40-33. VanKempen added two free throws thirty seconds later to earn the Saints the largest lead of the night at 42-33. However, the Tigers scored eight points in the final minute to bring the score to 42-41 heading into the final quarter.

After momentarily having the lead at 48-46, the Tigers once again lost Walther on the defensive side as she buried another jumper to tie the game at 48. Colorado College answered with a three, but the Saints took the lead back on back-to-back possessions of layups from Walther and Sam Brannen. The Tigers didn’t go away, converting on a CSS turnover with 30 seconds left to take a 58-57 lead. CSS answered with a bucket in the paint, as Cieluch put the Saints up 59-58 with 17 seconds left. After a Colorado College timeout, Thomas stole the inbound pass and brought it down the court for a fastbreak layup to secure the St. Scholastica win at 61-58.

Walther paced the Saints with 11 points, while Taylor Nowling played well in the post with six points and eight rebounds. Miner proved to be the eyes on the court for the Saints, throwing out a team-high four assists.

The eight rebound performance by Nowling proved to be a big factor in the team’s three-point win, which came through hard work for the sophomore forward.

“I knew it would be a big win for the team, and that when I got out there I needed to play my hardest,” said Nowling.

The win proved to be a good one for the Saints, but they couldn’t get caught up in the moment as they had a quick turnaround the following day against Sul Ross State from Texas. This game wasn’t as exciting as the first one, with the Saints marching out to a commanding 22-7 lead after the first quarter. The Saints didn’t extend the lead further during the next three quarters, but they kept it in double-digits as they cruised to a 65-53 victory to go 2-0 on the weekend.

Zoe Bystrom led the way offensively for the Saints in this one, scoring a career-high 16 points on 7-10 shooting off the bench. Walther (11) and VanKempen (10) both reached double figures as well, while Cieluch dished out five assists.

Bystrom was quick to credit her teammates in her career-high performance.

“I was happy to be able to help my team get a win,” said Bystrom. “My teammates set great screens in our offense, allowing me to get open and they found me in those open spots.”

Two wins are always great for a team, but these were specifically important with the women’s team battling the long road trip right before conference play opens up.

“I believe the best thing to be taken from this trip is that we are capable of winning even when we are out of our normal environment,” said Nowling.

“This was really big,” said Bystrom. “It gave us a lot of confidence because it showed how we can play and what we still have to work on; which is really important since conference [play] is right around the corner.”

Walther agrees with her teammates on the confidence builder aspect of the trip, but also took another good point away as well as adding a bit of humor.

“Something to take away from the trip is to never give up, even if we’re up quite a bit,” said Walther. “Also, another thing is to pack motion sickness pills for sitting in the back of the bus for nine hours.”

The Saints battle against Saint Mary’s Wednesday afternoon in Winona, which marks the last game before opening conference play against the reigning conference champions from the University of Wisconsin-Superior on Dec. 6.