Lady Blues bounced in second round of NCAA Tournament

Eric Smith

The Division II NCAA Tournament has been unkind to the Washburn Lady Blues basketball team in recent years. This season was no different, because the Blues lost 72-63 to Central Oklahoma in the South Central Regional semifinals March 14 in Canyon, Texas.

The No. 8 Lady Blues played the first half like many other games this season, leading 36-33 and shooting 50 percent from the field. However, foul trouble began to creep up in the first half when several Washburn players, including Janice Bright, Brette Ulsaker and Dayna Rodriguez, picked up two fouls.

“In the [Central Oklahoma] game, we were confident but things just didn’t seem to go our way in the second half,” said senior Jessica Mainz, who played her last game as a Washburn athlete. “We had trouble scoring and could never come back from the deficit.”

In the second half, the Lady Blues shot just 9-of-25 from the field compared to 16-of-30 for the Bronchos.

Foul trouble continued to plague Washburn as five players picked up three or more fouls.

“I think it was just how the game was going. It was a different reffing style than we had seen and we had to adjust to that,” said Mainz, who fouled out. “We got a couple calls on us early that we had to adjust to. We did an OK job in the first half with it, but in the second half it affected us more.”

The other dagger for the Lady Blues was the 3-point shooting from Central Oklahoma. The Bronchos shot 9-of-18 for the game including 6-of-10 in the second half.

“Their 3-point shots in the second half really killed us,” said Mainz. “And some girls who don’t usually make a lot of shots for them stepped up and hit them. When we’re having trouble scoring, that’s hard to come back from.”

For Washburn, Bright scored 16 points while Mainz had 11. Lizzie Brenner had a game-high 24 points for Central Oklahoma.

“We didn’t go all the way to the top like we wanted to but all the seniors played really hard and played our hearts out and left it all on the floor,” said Bright. “I’m proud of all the girls.”

The Lady Blues were able to win the first game of the NCAA tournament when they handled Incarnate Word 57-38. Bright led the team with 16 points, while seniors Kalee Silovsky and Stanecia Graham had 12 and 11 points, respectively.

While 57 points was the lowest output of the season for the Lady Blues, their defense made up for it, holding the Cardinals to a season-low 38 points and 13-of-50 from the field. It was also the lowest amount the Lady Blues had allowed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Washburn women ended the season with a 27-5 record, finishing second in the MIAA, and making their eighth consecutive appearance in the NCAA DII tournament.

The downside is the loss of six seniors, including five of the team’s six top scorers in Bright, Graham, Mainz, Karla Tailele and Silovsky.

Mainz, the only one to be with the team for all four years, said this year’s team was one of the most talented she’d been on.

“You never think about your last game into you actually play your last game,” said Bright. “It was definitely an emotional game for me. I’m going to miss all the girls and coach [Ron McHenry] and coach [Toni Gross]. And I’m just thankful for the opportunity that I had to come in and play for Washburn.”