In a career night for senior Jazmin Townsend, the St. Thomas women’s basketball team defeated St. Mary’s at home Wednesday night 72-53, clinching a MIAC playoff berth.
Townsend brought electricity to the Tommies, helping spark a big second-half rally that put St. Mary’s away for good. Townsend, who only needed 11 points to reach 500 in her career, provided the Tommies with 14.
“If you watch, there is always an energy player, and Jaz is it,” coach Ruth Sinn said. “[She] has been such a namesake for us, in everything.”
Wednesday night’s win was also special for Sinn because it marked her 100th college win in her six seasons as coach.
The win clinched the Tommies’ 10th MIAC playoff berth in the 11-year history of the current playoff format. St. Thomas is assured a top-four seed.
Starting the first half slow, Townsend and the Tommies allowed the Cardinals to jump to an early lead. With six fast points by the Cardinals’ Jessica Thone, the team’s leading scorer, the Tommies looked flustered by St. Mary’s hot shooting. After a nine-point deficit, the Tommies took an early timeout to try and rebuild their composure.
“We just talked about [defensive] adjustments,” Sinn said. “You could see a little bit of an energy after that.”
St. Thomas responded after the timeout with glimpses of what would become its new attitude in the second half. Riding freshman Maggie Weiers’ eight first-half points, St. Thomas was able to battle back to 30-30 going into halftime.
“Maggie shot well,” Sinn said. “She is a freshman, and we tell her she ‘better not play like one,’ because she is too talented.”
In the second half, the Tommies started to take over. Using a box-and-one defense to shut down Thone, St. Thomas outscored St. Mary’s 21-6 during a five-minute period. Playing more aggressively and blocking multiple shots, the Tommies gained momentum and never looked back.
“It felt good. It’s always fun getting those blocks,” Townsend said. “It’s kind of a momentum builder. Everyone gets excited, and it’s like, we got this.”
Thone led the Cardinals with 14 points in the first half but was held scoreless in the second. St. Mary’s finished the game shooting 32 percent from the field despite a 42 percent first-half shooting performance. The Tommies shot 65 percent in the second half, with seven players scoring points in their 19-7 game-closing run.
The Tommies will face rival St. Kate’s Saturday at home, and they have their sights set on a win after losing to St. Kate’s 73-68 last month.
“We deserve to beat them,” Townsend said. “They beat us at their home court and now it’s our turn to beat them. There is no reason we should have lost the first game, and we need to prove it on Saturday.”
Dan Fastner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.