Josh Wheeler / @JoshWheeler23
The Huskies despite their third consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Regional Tournament were unable to take down the number one seeded Ft. Hays Tigers in enemy territory at the Gross Memorial Coliseum in Fort Hays, Kansas as their historic season comes to an end in the NCAA Womens Basketball Division II Regional Semifinal game.
St. Cloud State seemed to match the Tigers defense throughout the opening quarter and much like the Tigers, they faced offensive struggles as well. Huskies spent the better part of the first half forcing long range shots amid the tightly knit Tigers defense resulting in little passing down low to one of the Huskies leading scorers from the paint, Nikki Kilboten. Huskies were able to substitute in freshman guard Morgan Draheim, who had only managed 2 points off the bench the night before in the Huskies win over the Missouri Southern State Lions.
Huskies often found themselves in foul trouble in both the early and latter part of the game against the Tigers Saturday, leading to Draheim coming into the game for Tori Wortz who had already accumulated a pair of fouls early on as this would eventually be the key turning point for St. Cloud State as the first half came to a close, they would answer back in the 3rd quarter despite a significant start both on offense and defense for the Tigers the shots began to fall for St. Cloud State. Unfortunately, for the Huskies , the Tigers had also finally found their groove in the 3rd and couldn’t miss when they had the ball and St. Cloud State’s hopes began to slip out of reach.
The fourth and final quarter began with the bench, Morgan Draheim making her offensive presence known early as the Huskies scratched and clawed their way into close proximity of what was once a 12 point Tigers lead but once again the Huskies pulled within a couple points. As the game drew near to an end it would be Tori Wortz draining a three point bucket from the arc and pushed the Huskies over the edge momentarily as they would lead 52-51 with the final minute left to spare which was just enough time for the Tigers to keep their offensive momentum going and gain a 5 point lead and the Huskies would answer back with another 3 pointer but the Tigers then finished off the Huskies push with their free throw shooting as that would spell the end for the Huskies season in a close finish in Fort Hays, KS.
Morgan Draheim stepped up in a huge way from the bench for St. Cloud State, leading the Huskies with 14 points in the loss however the Tigers were able to hold Brehna Evans to single digits only giving up 8 points as defense was the key to Fort Hays advancing to play in the Regional Championship on Monday.
Huskies with their first NSIC regular season title in almost 40 years and having one of the highest seeds in their program history were just a few of the high markers in this record-setting season for the Huskies. Huskies finish their season with a 24-5 record overall coinciding with a 19-2 conference record in the NSIC.