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Shoots and Ladders: W. Hoops rides 3-ball to Final Four

Photo by Caleb Willams,
Photo by Caleb Willams,

No. 2-ranked St. Thomas tied a school record for made 3-point baskets with 16 and stormed to an 85-56 home win over No. 11-ranked and visiting Wartburg in Saturday night's NCAA tournament women's basketball Elite 8 round game at Schoenecker Arena.

Seven different players combined to sink 16-of-30 treys for St. Thomas (30-1) The host squad avenged its lone season loss and ended the Knights' 16-game win streak.

The Toms capped a 17-0 home season. They've won 28 in a row in Schoenecker Arena, where they celebrated afterwards by climbing the ladder and cutting down the net on the east end of their home court.

Coach Ruth Sinn's team is in the Division III Final Four for the third time in eight seasons, and the program's seventh time since 1991. Sinn's last 10 teams improved to 44-9 in postseason play (MIAC and NCAA tournaments). This is also St. Thomas' fourth 30-win season in eight years.

St. Thomas will face Bowdoin in the national semifinals next Friday in Salem, Va. Unbeaten and top-ranked Thomas More (Ky.) faces Scranton (Pa.) in the other semifinal.

Wartburg (27-4) was led by Adrienne Boettger's 12 points and Amanda Brainerd's 10 points and five boards.

St. Thomas claimed its second national semifinal trip of the day as its No. 1-ranked Women's Hockey team scored a 4-3 home comeback win over No. 8-ranked UW-Eau Claire. St. Thomas is the lone school with multiple teams alive in men's and women's basketball and women's hockey Finals Fours set for March 15-16.


Second-Quarter Lift

St. Thomas, which never trailed, swished four treys during a 17-2 run that built a 34-16 lead with 5:36 to play in the second quarter. The Tommies started the third quarter on a 15-4 run to take complete control.

After scoring just 40 points in 60-40 loss at Wartburg on Dec. 30, St. Thomas surpassed the 40-point mark on this night 17:50 into the game. In the December loss, St. Thomas made just 5-of-23 from behind the arc and shot a season-low 30 percent from the floor with 18 turnovers.

Senior Lucia Renikoff surpassed 200 career 3-pointers as she sank 5-of-9 tries in a game-high 22-point night. Fellow senior Hannah Spaulding added 16 points and 14 rebounds, and soph Kelsie Cox scored a career-best 15 points. Kaia Porter added 12 points. Spaulding surpassed 700 career rebounds.

St. Thomas had only eight turnovers and shot 60 percent from the floor to the Knights' 38 percent.

The Tommies also avenged a season-ending 70-66 NCAA playoff home loss to Wartburg from three seasons ago in a game they were outscored 30-15 from 3-point range.

St. Thomas came into the weekend ranked first in Division III in 3-point proficiency at 40.4 percent (eight makes per game) and second in field-goal shooting at 50.6 percent. They have  outscored opponents by 375 points from 3-point range.