ST. PAUL, Minn. --- Wisconsin Lutheran College bowed out of the 2019 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship with a 67-51 loss to No. 2-ranked University of St. Thomas Saturday night at Schoenecker Arena.
The Warriors (27-2), who received votes in the final regular-season D3hoops.com Top 25, grabbed the first lead of the game on a 3-pointer by Lexi Reinke. The Tommies (28-1) responded with 12 of the next 14 points behind nine from Jostens Trophy finalist Hannah Spaulding to lead 12-5 as the clock reached the 2:00 mark.
Determined not to let the game get away from them, WLC finished the quarter on a 7-2 run capped by a Kelly Tramburg 3-pointer as time expired to trail just 14-12 after one.
St. Thomas used an early push in the second quarter to extend the lead to eight points after four minutes. Wisconsin Lutheran was able to keep the deficit managable, matching the Tommies basket for basket over the middle section of the quarter, with a Maddie Cruz layup making it 26-20 with 3:27 to play in the half. The Warriors went cold down the stretch, however, as St. Thomas closed out the half on a 12-0 run to lead 38-20 at the break.
Wisconsin Lutheran were able to cut into the lead in the third quarter, outscoring St. Thomas, 16-9, in the frame. The Warriors were able to put the clamps on the Tommies defensively during the middle portion of the quarter, holding St. Thomas scoreless for nearly five full minutes while cutting what had been a 16-point deficit in half. Bobbi Brendefur and Sarah Krynski hit back-to-back 3-pointers for UST to restore the double-digit lead but Cruz hit a 3-pointer to make it an 11-point game headed to the final frame.
In the fourth quarter, WLC was able to keep the deficit from growing but could not mount a run to cut into the Tommie advantage. With the Warriors forced to foul in the final minutes, UST went 5-of-6 at the line down the stretch to secure their berth in the sectional round.
St. Thomas finished the game shooting over 50 percent from the field with five 3-pointers, while Wisconsin Lutheran was held to 41.7 percent (20-of-48) and just three 3-pointers. The Tommies also went 14-of-20 at the line and held a 33-22 edge on the boards. WLC was 8-of-10 at the charity stripe.
Tramburg led Wisconsin Lutheran with 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting and five rebounds. Cruz added 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, while Reinke added 11 points, six rebounds and three assists. NACC Player of the Year Jen Dowden was held in check offensively by the Tommies. Dowden finished with just three points on 1-of-8 shooting. She did, though, have six assists and a steal.
Spaulding posted game-highs with 21 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three blocks to lead four Tommies in double figures. She was 8-of-11 from the field and 5-of-8 at the line. Kaylie Brazil added 11 points, while Kaia Porter and Kelsie Cox added 10 points apiece.
The 27 victories represent a school record for Wisconsin Lutheran. The game marked the final contest for Warrior seniors Cruz, Dowden, Reinke, Maddy Elrod, and Wynonah Filla. The group combined for an 87-24 overall record, a 68-12 conference record, three conference championships, and three NCAA Tournament appearances.