Strong low-post performances by center Maggie Weiers and forward Taylor Young guided the No. 16-ranked St. Thomas women’s basketball team to a 65-48 victory over No. 18-ranked St. Mary’s University Saturday at Schoenecker Arena.
Young, guard Kelly Brandenburg, and injured guard Annessa Hicks were honored in a senior salute as the Tommies (18-3 overall, 16-2 MIAC) held onto contention hopes for St. Mary’s (19-2 overall, 16-2 MIAC) No. 1 spot in MIAC rankings.
Although St. Thomas has two more regular season games left, Brandenburg was holding back tears when asked about her tenure at St. Thomas.
“It’s been awesome so far,” Brandenburg said. “It’s really sad obviously. It’s been a really fun season, and hopefully, it will go as long as possible.”
Coach Ruth Sinn said she knows this class of three seniors– the winningest class in St. Thomas history with a record of 92-18– plays with determination even though it has faced some challenges.
“They’re amazing,” Sinn said. “This team has gone through a lot of adversity. They’ve made it to the Sweet Sixteen without a full squad. This is a team that perseveres, and it’s because of the seniors’ leadership. They all lead in their own way, but it’s all special.”
The Tommies found themselves in foul trouble early when starting guard Laura Margarit picked up two fouls just barely 1:00 into the game. It looked as though it might be deja vu for this Tommie team that fell to the Cardinals 56-54 in early January. As the game moved forward though, so did the Tommies.
In the first half, the Tommies worked the ball into the low post and in and out of the hands of Young and Weiers on most possessions. Weiers chalked up 11 points in the first half. She said the Tommie offense needs to run through the post.
“It’s that time of the season, where we need to be slow and controlled inside, and that’s really going to help us and our perimeter game and inside, so we can get those easy points,” Weiers said.
Along with the post presence, the Tommie defense rarely let the Cardinals get off an open shot. Midway through the first half, St. Thomas held St. Mary’s to just two points for nearly nine minutes. During this stretch, the Tommies also put up 13 points to extend their lead by 11 points.At the end of the first half, Brandenburg inbounded to Young and she connected on the layup as time expired. St. Thomas went into the locker room with a 33-17 lead.
The second half started the same as it ended: with the Tommies dominating the Cardinals. Brandenburg said a key to the second half is good defense.
“Our main emphasis was basically focusing on defense,” Brandenburg said. “Defense has always been our key thing, and when we play together on defense, it always leads to our offense.”
St. Mary’s bounced back with a 12-4 run of its own later in the half, which gave the fans traveling from Winona something to cheer about. St. Mary’s was able to work the ball around, get it down low, and take it to the rack. However, the Tommies finished strong, knocking down 5 of 6 free throws in the last 1:00 of the game.
Both teams have officially clinched MIAC playoffs births, but this game means more than just a another regular season game, Sinn said.
“It was a great opportunity for us to play against a great team,” Sinn said. They’re a nice team; they’re well rounded, so it was a great matchup for us, and we were excited to take a step against a good team.”
This victory marks St. Thomas’ seventh in a row. The Tommies have a chance to increase that streak to eight when they square off against St. Olaf Wednesday.
Jesse Krull can be reached at email@example.com