St. Mary pulls away from Waldorf

Ending the regular season on a three-game winning streak, the Waldorf College women’s basketball team aimed to continue the momentum in the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference (MCAC) North Tournament.

The outcome wasn’t what the Warriors (8-19) had in mind as they saw their season come to a finish with a 94-53 loss to College of St. Mary (24-5) in Friday’s semifinal.

“Our kids fought hard, but just didn’t have enough to hold them off,” Waldorf coach Denny Jerome said.

The Flames entered the tournament ranked No. 12 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II poll. They lit it up, shooting 49 percent (34-of-70) from the field and 11-of-22 from 3-point range.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Jerome said. “They can beat you in so many ways.”

St. Mary wasn’t just hot from the perimeter. The Flames possess a dominant post presence, a guard court that can penetrate on offense and they’re also sound on the defensive end.

“They don’t have a weakness,” Jerome said. “We knew that going in. They’re really pretty solid.”

St. Mary opened the game on a 19-2 run. The Warriors settled in, narrowing the gap to nine points.

“After that, we played them really tough,” Jerome said.

Two 3-pointers in the closing minutes of the first half boosted St. Mary to a 41-25 halftime lead.

Waldorf was held scoreless for more than three minutes to start the second half while the Flames scored 12 unanswered points.

“We had a really slow start,” Jerome said.

A 53-28 second-half advantage allowed St. Mary to pull away and advance to Saturday’s MCAC North Tournament championship game against Haskell Indian Nations University (14-17).

Brenna Brigham led the Warriors with 13 points in the loss.

Waldorf’s Kellie Schmit and Lane Gehl scored eight points each. Schmit grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.

Destinee Sinegal-Smith and Kelsey Carpenter finished with five points apiece for the Warriors, who shot 20-of-63 (32 percent) from the field and 3-of-16 (19 percent) from behind the arc.

Deaundra Young set the tone for the Flames as the MCAC Player of the Year scored a game-high 19 points.

St. Mary had six players finish in double figures. Akia Davis and Brea Sabatka added 14 points apiece while Tiffani Lewis and Amanda Woodring contributed 10 points each.

The Flames owned a 47-36 advantage on the boards. Waldorf committed 15 turnovers and St. Mary turned the ball over 10 times.

Despite seeing their season conclude with an early tournament exit, the Warriors played their best late in the year.

“We felt our best games of the year were the last four regular-season games,” Jerome said. “We played really good ball at the end and that’s what you want to be doing.”

The loss ended the careers of Ginny Sanchez, Gehl, Brigham and Sinegal-Smith.

“We hate to lose our seniors,” Jerome said. “We feel pretty good that we’ve got some experience returning. We’ve come a long way. Hopefully, we can fill some spots and people can get better, grow and improve. That’s what it’s all about.”