The Foresters lost to the Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats, 64-53, in the Crossroads League tournament semifinals. Senior Sarah Miller-Jennings led the Forester efforts with 15 points and two assists.
The matchup against the NAIA Division II No. 1 Wildcats pitted two of the conference’s top defenses against each other. The Wildcats’ conference leading defense held the Foresters without a field goal for the first six and a half minutes.
Forester head coach Lori Culler called a timeout at the 10:37 mark with her team trailing 5-15 and shooting 1-for-9 from the field. She said that the team wasn’t being creative enough against a team that had scouted so well that they knew what plays the Foresters were calling.
“For us it was about trying to take what they were giving us, [but] we were trying to do what we always do,” Culler said. “I credit Wesleyan’s defense. They make you look bad.”
The Foresters were unable to put a run together the entire first half, and trailed at halftime by the score of 14-27. They did use the charity stripe for six points, but yielded 10 to senior Paige Smith, IWU’s representative on the All-Crossroads League First Team.
The Forester offense showed some life in the first five minutes of the second half, picking up six points thanks in large part to out rebounding IWU four-to-one during the span and four IWU fouls. Huntington had narrowed the deficit to 27-37 at the 13:22 mark in the second half. Miller-Jennings said the team was not discouraged by the first half and was committed
“A lot of teams start off that bad and finish that bad,” she said. “We used that (first half) as sort of motivation, that we don’t want to play like that for the rest of the game.”
The Wildcat lead had slimmed to seven with a little over eight to go, but the Wildcats restored their 13-point halftime advantage two minutes later. Both teams had entered the bonus near the halfway mark of the second half.
Size was a factor in the game. The Wildcats played 6-1 sophomore Katrina Blackmon, who finished with 19 points, most of the game while the Foresters countered with 5-9 girls most of the game, Culler said, leaving the Foresters at a significant disadvantage at the inside-game.
“When Katrina attacks the basket, this year we just don’t really have anybody that was good enough to defend that one-on-one,” she said. “Our only hope was to try and take a charge on her.”
The Foresters were able to stick around in the game partially because they won the rebound battle, 32 to 25. Junior Taylor Foley had a game-high nine boards for the Foresters, and said it was a tough battle to get the boards before IWU’s Blackmon and Smith.
“I just had to strive to block them out really hard,” Foley said, “that way they didn’t go over my back or get loose balls.”
Turnovers hurt the Foresters on the night, as they committed 24, compared to the Wildcats’ 16. Two of the turnovers were in transition because they were trying to score quickly before IWU set up its defense, Culler said. Miller-Jennings said the turnovers affected the Foresters because they came at critical times.
“Most games you can get away with a few turnovers here and there,” Miller Jennings said. “Ours tonight, we couldn’t afford to have them. And that sort of swung the momentum back their way once we had momentum going our way.”
With their season over, the Foresters will now graduate three players from their current squad, seniors Miller-Jennings, Lauren Meese and Allison Greene. Culler said that the importance of the three has been significant over the last few years.
“This is one of my most successful senior classes,” Culler said. “They all have been just very important pieces to the program the last several years.”