The dynamic play on both ends of the floor from sophomores Taylor Young and Maggie Weiers was the difference maker in the women’s basketball team’s 58-45 conference semifinal win over St. Mary’s Thursday, Feb. 23, at Schoenecker Arena.
Offensively, the pair combined for 35 of the team’s 58 points. Young had 21, and Weiers pitched in 14. Defensively, the duo had two tough defensive assignments, covering the Cardinals’ two best players: junior guard Jessica Thone and junior center Jamie Stefely. Stefely, however, lit up the Tommies with 21 points in their last match up.
Coach Ruth Sinn said she was proud of Weiers’ and Young’s composure.
“Both of them slowed down, made sure they were balanced and made sure they were in control,” Sinn said. “I thought they did a nice job.”
The Tommies knew what to expect from the Cardinals in their third match up this season.
“St. Mary’s is a strong team,” Young said. “Those players really come out and battle whenever we play them.”
Young put the Tommies on the scoreboard first with a jump shot outside the paint. Strong post play by Weiers and senior center Sarah Smith also resulted in several Tommie baskets early in the first half. St. Thomas was able to jump out to a 16-8 lead before St. Mary’s fought back. A 3-pointer by sophomore forward Sara Schoenthaler and two free throws by sophomore forward Courtney Euerle brought the Cardinals to a 16-15 score midway through the first half.
With the Tommies’ season on the line, Young said she knew she had to be the scorer the team needed her to be.
“We were not getting the calls inside,” Young said. “Both Maggie and Sarah were working hard, but I knew I had to draw fouls from driving from outside the perimeter.”
Young contributed eight points off strong driving layups and free throws to give the Tommies a 30-21 lead going into halftime.
In the second half, Young and Weiers extended the Tommies’ lead; Weiers dominated the post by making strong moves to the basket and shutting down Stefely, holding her to four points in the half. Young nailed two jump shots in the lane to give St. Thomas a 36-23 lead.
The Cardinals were able to fight back to a six-point due to an offensive surge from Thone. Thone scored 13 of her 16 points in the second half, coming off hard drives to the basket and a big 3-pointer.
Young, who was defending Thone throughout the game, gave her opponent credit.
“She has a quick release and a strong drive, and it was hard to guard her,” Young said.
St. Mary’s was also able to fight its way back into the game because of Tommie turnovers; the team had 14 in the game. Sinn said ball possession and decision making needs to be improved.
“If it is a high-risk pass, do not throw it. If it is a low-risk pass and someone is open, then take it,” Sinn said. “There were times this game where we were definitely making high-risk passes, especially when we have a 10-point lead.”
With less than three minutes remaining in the game, junior guard Kellie Ring sank a 3-pointer, giving her team a 10-point lead. Weiers added two layups to put the game out-of-reach, and Young sealed the game with two final free throws.
Sinn said she likes the way the team is playing, especially on the defensive end.
“We held them to 45 points… I am proud of that,” Sinn said.
With the victory, the Tommies extended their winning streak to 25 games and advanced to the conference championship game. The team will play Gustavus Saturday, Feb. 25, at home.
“Gustavus and St. Thomas have always been rivals, so it will be a great match up for the conference championship,” Young said.
Hayley Schnell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.