Centre Women’s Basketball team advances to NCAA Sweet Sixteen
March 8, 2012 By Matt Montavon, Sports Information Intern
during the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday,
March 4. The Lady Colonels defeated Washington 57-55 to move
on to the Sweet Sixteen.
The Centre Women's Basketball team celebrates after defeating
Washington University. Next, the team will take on Carthage
College at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 9 at the University of Mount
Union in Alliance, Ohio.
After hosting and winning first and second round NCAA Tournament games, the Centre women’s basketball team has advanced to the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2001. The Colonels will take on Carthage College at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 9 at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio.
Though the Colonels have set a school record for wins in a season and currently stand at 26-3, things didn’t always come easily. The team came from behind in many of its regular season victories and in the tournament as well, trailing by as many as seven points in a 59-47 first round victory over Guilford and falling behind 32-18 at halftime against No. 9-ranked Washington before winning 57-55.
“Whether we like it or not, it's been this team’s forte all year to be down at halftime and find a way to make adjustments and finish in the second half,” says head coach Wendie Austin-Robinson. “More than usual, I was a little nervous [after playing Washington University] because this was a great team that understands how to play in the tournament. I didn't like our toughness in the first half and the beginning of the second half, but I liked it toward the end, and I liked our grit and desire to grind out a win.”
Washington had been the more experienced tournament team, with a national championship in 2010, a runner-up finish in 2011 and five national championships in all, but it was the Centre women who came through with the game on the line. With the Colonels trailing 53-49, Chelsea Benham ’13 scored six of the Colonels' final eight points to help erase a 53-49 deficit. Benham and Maggie Prewitt ’12 each made free throws to tie the game with 1:33 to go, then Benham answered free throws by Washington's Melissa Gilkey with a turnaround jumper to tie the score at 55 with 58 seconds left.
After a Washington miss and rebound, Centre's Bridget Winstead ’13 came up with a steal. Benham was fouled with 14.1 seconds left and buried both free throws to give her team the lead for good.
“I've been in that position before to hit that last shot, and I like to have the ball there,” Benham said. “I knew my team trusted me, and I needed to trust myself. And with the free throws, that's been a historic event with me because I've missed twice at the end of games. The girls and coaches had confidence in me, and when we went to the bench they said ‘You've got this. You've made them in practice. You know what you're doing, so just settle down and shoot,’ and I did.”
When Washington tried to answer, Lauren Huter ’12 blocked a lay-up attempt, and Benham came out of a scramble on the floor with the rebound. Though Centre gave Washington one final chance with an offensive foul, a three-pointer by Dani Hoover from the right corner sailed long, giving the Colonels the victory.
The victory over Washington came on the heels of an eventful Friday in which both tournament games had been delayed by severe storms in the area, pushing back Centre’s tip-off until 10 p.m. The Colonels trailed throughout most of the first half, but behind 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists from Prewitt, Centre put together a 26-4 second half run to pull away for the win.
“We get down, and nobody freaks out, nobody panics,” said Prewitt, a two-time conference player of the year who holds school records in several categories and is currently 50 points away from being second on Centre’s all-time scoring list. “We know we've done this before, and it's no big deal for us to score seven points in two minutes. We had faith in each other and kept playing hard. When you worry about playing basketball instead of worrying about being down, it comes a lot easier.”
Centre and Carthage (22-7) will face off at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 9 with host school Mount Union (28-1) taking on Illinois Wesleyan (24-5) afterward. Winners of the two games will meet Saturday at 7 p.m. to play for a spot in next week’s Final Four in Holland, Mich.
For fans who wish to make the trip to Alliance, tickets will be available at the Mount Union Athletic Facility and are $7 for adults and $4 for students. Gates will open 90 minutes before tip-off. For those unable to make the trip, live stats, audio and video will be available online. Full details are available on Mount Union’s site information page.
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Centre College, founded in 1819 and chosen to host its second Vice Presidential Debate in 2012, is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. Centre is also ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News for its study abroad program. For more, click here.