The eighth-ranked St. Thomas women’s basketball team secured a portion of the regular-season MIAC title with a strong outside shooting performance by guard Katie Stone and stifling defense in the Tommies’ 69-46 dismantling of St. Olaf Wednesday night at Schoenecker Arena.
This is the Tommies’ (21-3 overall, 15-2 MIAC) ninth consecutive year they’ve clinched a conference postseason bid in coach Ruth Sinn’s 11 seasons at St. Thomas. Stone said getting a share of the MIAC title is a re-occurring goal for the team.
“It’s just one of our goals that we try and achieve every year,” Stone said. “This year we did it again, and it’s a great team feeling because it’s a team effort.”
Wednesday night’s contest didn’t start as well as Sinn had planned. She called a timeout just over three minutes into the first quarter because the team lacked “a sense of urgency.” At the end of the first quarter, the Oles (12-12 overall, 7-10 MIAC) trailed the Tommies by just three points.
“This game was all about who’s going to attack who,” Sinn said. “They started attacking us, and we were back on our heels defensively. And then offensively we were just going through the motions.”
As the first quarter concluded, Sinn’s squad showed its true colors.
In the second quarter, stubborn defense from the Tommies forced the Oles to shoot just 2-of-11 from the field, which translated to five points. The Oles scored in double figures in the third quarter, but were held to just nine points in the fourth. Forward Lauren Fischer said it was “huge” holding the Oles to single-digit points in two quarters.
“(Sinn) stresses trying to keep teams in single digits in quarters,” Fischer said. “It just gives us a lot of momentum when we can get stops and run on offense.
St. Olaf finished the contest shooting 33 percent from the field with guard Lauren Gutierrez finishing with a team-high 12 points. Guard Woo Bandel wasn’t far behind with 11 points and four steals.
As St. Olaf’s offense was diminished, Stone flourished. She scored 10 of her 21 points in the second quarter, shooting 100 percent from the field, including 2-for-2 on 3-pointers. She finished the game shooting 7-of-8 from the field and 5-of-6 from behind the arc.
Stone’s persistent 3-pointers are helping lead a core group of shooters to a record-breaking season. Prior to this game, the Tommies were 36.2 percent from behind the arc, which placed them sixth in Division III.
Stone is shooting 36.2 percent on 3-pointers while fellow starter, forward Lauren Fischer, is converting on 47.4 percent of hers. The Tommies are two 3-pointers away from breaking the record for most threes in team history, which was set last year with a total of 183. Stone said strong three-point shooting starts in practice.
“We do stress it everyday in practice, getting outside shots. We take shots in practice where we get them in games, so the perimeter shooters aren’t just shooting layups in practice,” Stone said.
The Tommies have a chance to clinch the outright regular season conference title in the regular season finale against St. Mary’s at home this Saturday. Following the conference title tilt, the MIAC tournament begins on Tuesday and runs through Saturday.
Jesse Krull can be reached at email@example.com.