Goals are tricky things, requiring due diligence, skill and a bit of luck. Achieving them brings euphoria, missing them brings heartbreak. The women’s basketball team started the season with one looming goal – win the regular season championship; a task no team headed by Chad Folsom had ever achieved. They settled for a historic appearance in the semifinals of the national tournament instead.
For four games, the Benedictine women’s basketball team displayed every facet of the program: upperclassmen showing experience, underclassmen rising to the occasion and a tenacity that was nearly unrivaled.
Before the Lady Ravens stepped onto the court in Independence, they needed to get through MidAmerica Nazarene for a chance at the Heart tournament championship.
DaJonee Hall and Central Methodist had already taken away their shot at the regular season title. The Lady Ravens made them pay for that with a 82-69 lashing in the Ralph Nolan.
For three quarters, Benedictine looked ready to return to the tournament championship. Then MidAmerica turned their intensity up a notch, outscoring the Lady Ravens 25-7 in the final quarter for a 67-51 win.
“I don’t know if we wanted it in the last quarter, that’s disappointing,” Folsom said after the loss in the conference tournament semifinals. “They wanted it more than we did in the last quarter. They rose up and we didn’t.”
From the loss, the Lady Ravens rose like a phoenix.
In the opening game of the tournament, a combination of senior Chayla Rutledge and freshman LaRanda Thomas helped the Lady Ravens stave off Montana State Northern in overtime 55-53. Rutledge had a team high 22 points, while Thomas scored the final seven points for Benedictine in the overtime.
“Anytime you come to nationals, there is a sense of urgency because if you lose, your done. No one wanted our season to end tonight,” Rutledge said, following the win.
Next on the itinerary was the top team in the nation – Our Lady of the Lakes. This time around it was senior Jordan Kramer and sophomore Kristen Murphy’s time to shine. Murphy notched her first career double double, while Kramer hit three fourth quarter 3-pointers, giving Benedictine the 71-63 win.
Kramer and Murphy followed up their round of 16 win with two more huge performances as the Lady Ravens took down Campbellsville in the quarterfinals, 45-36.
Kramer played a role in every point scored in the final two minutes scoring a team high 16 points, while Murphy finished with her second double double of the tournament.
The win propelled Benedictine into the Fab Four, the first Heart team to do so, but they wouldn’t be alone as Baker and MidAmerica Nazarene joined the Lady Ravens, setting up a Benedictine-Baker match-up for a shot at the national title game.
The atmosphere was unrivaled. 2,000-plus fans split the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena into seas of orange and red.
The Wildcats shocked the Lady Ravens from the start upending them 23-7 in the first quarter. The next three quarters – exactly even. The first quarter proved to be the difference maker with the sluggish start ending the Lady Ravens historic run.
While the spot for a regular season championship remains open in the trophy case, a national tournament semifinal trophy will have to do for now.