1993 NCAA Div. III champions
PELLA—The Central College women’s basketball team fought to the finish but suffered yet one more setback Saturday, closing an injury-plagued year with a 76-72 loss to Cornell College.
The Dutch placed four players in double figures as they scrambled back from several late deficits and still had a chance to tie the game with 10 seconds remaining when a costly turnover helped Cornell secure the win.
“We got close a few times in the second half then fell behind again, but we didn’t quit,” coach Jerry Nikkel said. “We fought back and had an opportunity at the end.
“I thought we played hard enough to win. But a couple breaks didn’t go our way.”
One of those breaks was a first-half injury to starting guard/forward Kelsey Schuring (sophomore, Pella), providing a disappointing end for her season.
Forward Haley Brillhart (junior, Pella) had 18 points, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals but was lost to fouls in the closing minutes.
“The fourth foul call on Haley did a lot of damage to us,” Nikkel said. “She was playing well and we had a lot of momentum at that point.”
Senior Ashley Gerst (Wapello) and freshmen Nicole Strasko (Roland, Roland-Story HS) and Alyssa Schwartz (Titonka, WCLT) each added 11 points. Gerst also had seven assists.
The typically slow-starting squad was quick out of the blocks Saturday, jumping to a 19-9 lead and was up 36-33 at the half. Cornell twice took seven-point second-half leads but the Dutch quickly responded. A 3-point play on a putback and free throw by center Andrea Clark (junior,Guthrie Center) pulled Central to within 73-72 with 1:15 left, but the Dutch were scoreless the rest of the way.
Central (2-23 overall, 1-15 Iowa Conference) outshot Cornell (8-17 overall, 3-13 conference) 45.0 percent to 42.3, but was edged on the boards, 34-33.
The Dutch lose two seniors to graduation, Gerst and guard Ashley Feldman (Alleman, North Polk HS).
“Both seniors played well,” Nikkel said. “Ashley Gerst had seven assists, that was really nice to see. And Ashley Feldman really hustled and made things happen. She’s kind of a crowd favorite because she gives that kind of intensity.”
But an encouraging sign as the Dutch look to the future was that Central’s double-figures scorers Saturday included two freshmen and a sophomore.
“Our freshmen played well,” Nikkel said. “They’ve really improved.”