DePauw Begins and Ends Season With Win Over Washington U.

Tigers earn school's first championship in any sport

March 17, 2007

By Nate Crossman

Special to CSTV.com

 

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The DePauw University women's basketball team ended the 2007 season the same way it began it: with a win over Washington University.

 

The second win, however, meant a bit more.

 

The Tigers, who beat the Bears by seven on Nov. 17 in the Illinois Wesleyan Tip-Off Tournament, beat Washington, 55-52, Saturday in the NCAA Division III national championship at Springfield College to earn the school's first championship in any sport.

 

DePauw (31-3) has now beaten Washington (25-6) twice in a row after losing 16 of the previous 17.

 

"I'm in a fog right now," DePauw coach Kris Huffman said. "This was one of our goals, to get to the Final Four. And we talked about winning a national championship. But I'm not sure if you're ever prepared when it happens."

 

Mary Washington beat New York University, 57-45, in the third-place game.

 

The Tigers received another standout performance from senior All-American Liz Bondi, who earned Final Four MVP honors. Bondi could not match her 28-point performance against Mary Washington, but she tallied nine points and nine rebounds and was effective in slowing down Bears sophomore Jaimie McFarlin, who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

 

Sophomore Cassie Pruzen led DePauw with 12 points, including a crucial 3-pointer in the final four minutes when Washington was making a comeback.

 

The Bears were also hurt by freshman Emily Marshall, one of five St. Louis natives on DePauw. Marshall, who attended Nerinx Hall, scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds.

 

Sophomore Halsey Ward led Washington with 16 points, 12 of them on 3-pointers. McFarlin, an All-Tournament Team selection, added 12 while senior Rebecca Parker added nine points and 10 rebounds.

 

Due in large part to a six-minute scoring draught to start the second half, Washington found itself trailing 42-29 with 9:18 to play. The way Washington's offense had been struggling to score it appeared a13-point cushion would be enough.

 

But the Bears came back thanks to the 3-point accuracy of Ward and the grittiness of McFarlin. Ward scored on a layup to end a two-minute field goal draught, then knocked down her second 3-pointer off a screen to cut the deficit to 42-35.

 

McFarlin took over from there.

 

First she scored on a 15-foot jump shot to make it a 42-37 game. She then blocked Bondi to force a turnover and hit another 15-footer, pumping her fist and shaking her head as she ran back down the court.

 

"They had been controlling the tempo of the game, and you just hoped that things would start breaking our way and things would start falling," Washington coach Nancy Fahey said. "I wasn't worried about fatigue, but I knew we had to make runs. I'm proud of the fact that even though we got down we weren't going to be out."

 

Parker's layup pulled her team to within one. On her team's next possession, she went to the line with a chance to give her team its first lead of the game. But she missed the front end of a one-and-one situation, and Lowes hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Tigers a 45-41 lead.

 

"Kalei is our top defender and she works her tail off," Huffman said. "But she can hit big-time shots, and that was a big-time shot in the corner."

 

Ward hit her third 3-pointer to once again pull her team to within one. But once again DePauw answered with a 3-pointer, this time from Pruzin.

 

Pruzin would factor into the game again in the final seconds. With her team clinging to a 54-52 lead with 18.2 seconds left, she was fouled in the backcourt. But she only made one of two free throws, meaning a 3-pointer could still tie the game.

 

The Bears, who were out of timeouts, worked the ball into Ward's hands. But Ward could not find an open look and settled for a leaning 3-point attempt that fell short. There was a scramble for the rebound, but the horn sounded with the ball on the ground and DePauw players quickly rushed the court.

 

"With how we finished last season (losing to eventual national champion Hope in the Elite Eight), we were hoping we could make something happen," Huffman said. "We had a tough year because of expectations. But I told the team we're not going to be playing the same way in February as we are in the beginning of the season. And we really started to play good."

 

Notes: Suzy Doughty (DePauw), Jaimie McFarlin (Washington), Debbie Bruen (Mary Washington) and Stephanie Ryba (NYU) were named to the All-Tournament team while Liz Bondi (DePauw) was named Tournament MVP.