1993 NCAA Div. III champions
FULTON, MO.—Central College placed four players in double figures to win its first women’s basketball season opener in seven years Saturday, 75-66 at Westminster College (Mo.).
It was a successful debut for new Dutch coach Jerry Nikkel, who took over after four years as an assistant.
Central welcomed the return of guard Laura Porter (senior, Monroe, PCM HS), the 2006-07 team MVP who missed nearly the entire 2007-08 season with a knee injury. Porter topped the Dutch charts with 16 points and five rebounds. Forward Emily De Jong (senior, Ankeny) had 14 points and eight rebounds while guard Megan Carman (senior, Newton) had 14 points and four boards. Both also missed portions of last season as the Dutch endured a 4-21 campaign. Freshman guard Sarah Paulson (Ottumwa) added 11 points and center Andrea Clark (sophomore, Guthrie Center) had nine points and seven rebounds.
Central trailed 40-36 at intermission but wore down the Blue Jays in the second half, limiting them to 26 points on 28.6-percent field goal shooting.
“We got a couple of transition baskets to take the lead and once we got the lead, they never got it back,” Nikkel said. “We just outran them. They got tired in the second half. We just kept grabbing the rebound and pushing the ball down the floor.”
Central outrebounded Westminster 43-27 and forced 19 turnovers. The Dutch shot 39.1 percent from the floor and hit 21 of 28 free throws.
“It was a good win for the kids,” Nikkel said. “They didn’t give up.”
However perhaps the season’s most challenging weekend awaits as Central competes in the Washington-St. Louis Univ. (Mo.) Tip-Off Tournament next Friday and Saturday. The Dutch are the only school in the four-team field without a spot in the NCAA Division III rankings. Central must take on host Washington-St. Louis Friday at 7 p.m. The Bears are perennial Division III powers and are rated No. 4 in the USA Today/ESPN rankings and are No. 6 in the D3hoops.com poll. In Friday’s other game, No. 5 DePauw Univ. (Ind.) meets No. 12 Illinois Wesleyan. DePauw is No. 3, according to D3hoops.com while Illinois Wesleyan is No. 10. The third-place game is next Saturday at 2 p.m. with the final at 4 p.m.
Central holds a 2-1 all-time series lead against Washington-St. Louis, stunning the Bears 80-69 in a tournament at Illinois Wesleyan Univ. in Bloomington, Ill. Nov. 18, 2006.
“We’re facing a monumental task,” Nikkel said. “But if we play as hard as we did today, we can make some good things happen.”