November 24, 2020

Webster handles Eureka in first round of SLIAC tourney, can’t get by No. 1 seed for SLIAC title

Twice the Webster University women’s basketball team came within a point of Westminster College (Mo.) in the second half of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament on Sunday, Feb. 24.

But the No. 1-seeded Blue Jays proved to be too much for the Gorloks as they fell 71-55 in Fulton.

Webster University senior guard Gwen Williams charges down the court after a steal in the first half of the SLIAC tournament semifinals on Saturday, Feb. 23 in Fulton. Webster won the game 73-67 over Eureka College (Ill.), but lost the title game to Westminster College (Mo.) 71-55 the next day. PHOTO BY AVA ROESSLEIN.

“Overall, the feeling was that we wanted it for our seniors really bad,” junior guard/forward Courtney Pursley said. “We wanted that win to send the seniors off in a good way. When we came within one, the feeling was that we could do it, and we all believed that we could do it. But when we got there we needed to push over that hump.”

In their final game as Gorloks, the three seniors combined for 33 of Webster’s 55 points. Senior guard Airyn Miller came off the bench to score 8 points and knocked down two 3-pointers in the second half. Senior guards Maggie Zehner and Gwen Williams led the Gorloks in points with 14 and 11, respectively.

“I feel like as a junior or a freshman, or whatever category you’re in, you know that you have another year,” Williams said.  “I felt like me, Airyn  (Miller) and Maggie (Zehner), we knew we didn’t have another year. Not only playing in front of a crowd that we’ve been playing for four years, but like playing together — we’ll never get that opportunity again.

“(The three seniors) were supposed to be the ones going out and scoring and giving it our all. The team was there behind us, but I felt like we were the ones that should have led it, and we did.”

In spite of the loss, coach Jordan Olufson said he believes his team did everything they could have done to win, but they missed a couple shots in the final minutes of the game that ended up being the difference.

The Gorloks were down by 6 points at halftime. Webster made a push in the second half as Zehner made two free throws to trim the Blue Jays’ lead to 45-44 with 8:56 left on the clock.

But that’s the closest Webster would come as Westminster continued to add points on the board.

During the game, Webster shot 1-for-8 from behind the arc and made 4 of 14 3-point attempts overall (28.6 percent). The Gorloks also only shot slightly more than 34 percent from the field in the matchup, while the Blue Jays were 50 percent from 3-point range and nearly 93 percent at the foul line.

“I thought the big difference was we were getting the rim, and we just didn’t finish,” Olufson said. “We missed a couple down the stretch, and (Westminster) made some and that was pretty much the difference in the game.”

Westminster guard Leigh Ann Lutz took over the game with a total of 27 points and connected on seven of 12 3-point attempts. She ranks first overall in the SLIAC in 3-pointers and free throw percentage. Blue Jay guard/forward Hannah Kloster shined on the big stage as she finished with 19 points of her own.

Williams said it surprised the team that Lutz was able to make as many Hail Mary shots as she did.

“One thing that they did that we couldn’t do was hit their 3s,” Williams said. “Half of them were like nowhere near the 3-point line — (Lutz) just hit them. She never drove in and went to the basket. She just shot all 3s and they went in. We guard 3-point shooters, but she was shooting very far out to the point where it wasn’t in our boundary lines to guard her.

“(Kloster) kind of did the same thing, and a lot of her shots went in that normally (don’t) go in for her.”

On the Saturday, Feb. 23 victory against Eureka College (Ill.) in Round 1, Webster’s defense was able to hold off the Red Devils by getting steals late in the game to secure the 73-67 win. But in the Feb. 24 loss to Westminster, Webster was only able to manage two steals throughout the game. Williams said this was because the Gorloks were in a zone defense for most of the game, which causes more defections than steals.

Williams said even though the team fell short of a SLIAC championship, she is very happy with the outcome of the season. She said the Gorloks were the “underdogs” headed into the 2012-13 season and Webster was picked to finish tied for fourth with Fontbonne University (Mo.) in the conference standings in the preseason coaches’ poll.

Pursley said as an underclassman, she is excited for the 2013-14 season.

“We lost three great seniors that had a great impact, but we have a lot of girls coming back so we should be pretty strong next year — definitely a threat,” Pursley said.

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