The No. 8 ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater women’s basketball team fell just short of a thrilling comeback victory Friday night, falling 70-62 against Redlands (Calif.) in the first round of the NCAA Division III Championship at Kachel Gymnasium in Whitewater.
UW-Whitewater wraps up its season with a 23-4 record after claiming the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season championship, a semifinal appearance in the conference tournament and its 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last 13 years.
The Warhawks trailed by as many as 14 in the third quarter and were down 10 at the end of the period before making runs in the fourth.
UW-Whitewater drew to within two possessions at 52-46 with 9:27 on the clock after a pair of free throws by freshman forward Aleah Grundahl.
The Bulldogs (22-6) responded with six straight points to double their lead up to 12 at the 7:45 mark, but the Warhawks surged back with a 6-0 run to cut it to 58-52 on a layup by junior center Johanna Taylor at the midway point of the quarter.
Redlands responded again with five straight points, but UW-Whitewater ran off five unanswered as senior guard Becky Raeder cut it to 63-58 on a 3-pointer with 1:31 left.
The Bulldogs hit 7-of-8 from the free-throw line over the final 1:13 of regulation to punch their ticket to the second round, where they’ll face Trine (Ind.), a 65-37 winner over Benedictine (Ill.).
Grundahl led the Warhawks with 18 points and eight rebounds, and Taylor finished with a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds to go along with three assists.
Raeder and sophomore guard Veronica Kieres each tallied nine points, and junior guard Rebekah Schumacher registered eight points, all in the first half. Kieres added seven rebounds.
UW-Whitewater committed only 10 turnovers in the game but was held to 31.3 percent shooting in the contest, while Redlands converted 48.1 percent from the floor.
The Warhawks scored 28 second-chance points thanks to 17 offensive rebounds.
UW-Whitewater led 8-2 three minutes into the game. After Redlands drew to within one, the two teams traded baskets over the remainder of the first quarter, and the Warhawks took a 17-16 advantage on a 3-pointer by Schumacher with just over a minute remaining.
Neither team led by more than four in the second quarter before the Bulldogs took a five-point lead in the final minute of the period.
After a pair of Raeder free throws brought UW-W within three at the 8:37 mark of the third quarter, Redlands scored the next 11 points and led 48-34 with 6:18 on the clock.
The Warhawks drew within 10 by the end of the quarter to set up their comeback attempt.