Oskaloosa--For the first time since joining the NAIA over a decade ago, the William Penn women's basketball team will enter the second half of Midwest Collegiate Conference play at the top of the league standings after defeating #22 Grand View 68-62 Wednesday.
The Lady Statesmen (14-7, 5-1 MCC), winners of five in a row, were assisted to the top by a 70-66 AIB upset of #18 St. Ambrose to now lead the Queen Bees and Vikings by one game. With the win, the navy and gold have been victorious over three ranked teams this year, including wins over then-#18 Hastings (Neb.) and then-#21 St. Mary (Neb.), both back in November.
The home squad pulled out to an early 13-7 lead, but Grand View (12-6, 4-2 MCC) came back to knot the contest at 16-16. William Penn finished strong, however, scoring 20 of the final 29 points to lead 36-27 at intermission.
The visitors then made another run early in the second half to go ahead 47-45. The teams exchanged buckets over the next few minutes, eventually being tied at 54-54 for the seventh and last time.
Sam Abens (Jr., Knoxville, Iowa, Physical Education), who had six first-half points, then took over the matchup to give her team the lead for good. The junior hit four consecutive field goals for eight straight points, finishing with a team-high 17 points off the bench (7-of-11 FG, 2-of-5 3-PT). Abens also tied Orielle Thomas (Sr., Waynesville, Mo., Physical Education) for the squad lead with eight rebounds.
William Penn held a 40.4%-36.4% shooting edge and was also better on the glass with a 42-39 rebounding advantage. The Lady Statesmen overcame 15 turnovers, which led to a 14-11 margin in points off turnovers. A 15-11 GVU lead in offensive rebounds also put the navy and gold in a 9-4 hole in second-chance points.
All of that did not matter, though, as the hosts were electric at the free-throw line, going 19-of-21, while the Vikings were just 8-of-14 overall. Janay Pritchett (So., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Biology) paced her team in that area, highlighting her 16-point effort with a 10-of-10 outing at the stripe. The sophomore is the fourth player since 2001 to go perfect at the line (minimum of ten attempts).
Sarah Martin (Sr., Anthem, Ariz., Physical Education) was also in double figures with ten points. Thomas was next with eight points, while Jessie Kreuser (So., Mendota Heights, Minn., Undecided) added six points.
Pritchett assisted on five scores and Katie Golomski (So., Milwaukee, Wis., Psychology) blocked two shots.
"This was a good win for our program over a ranked team," Head Coach Mike Brown said. "We played extremely hard tonight and the good thing is we still have our best basketball ahead of us."
"Sam and Janay made big plays and free throws when we needed them," Brown added. "Jessie and Megan Evangelista (So., Chanhassen, Minn., Biology) took turns with a tough assignment in defending their post player Morgan Hamner. We are really happy to be in this position as the MCC's top program entering the second half of the conference season."
Next: William Penn remains in Oskaloosa Saturday to host St. Ambrose in MCC action at 1 p.m.