The first trip to the NCAA Tournament for the SWOSU women's basketball team was ended by No. 6 seed Augustana in a thrilling 68-64 semifinal on Saturday night in Topeka, Kan.
The Lady Bulldogs had the lead late in the game, but Augustana knocked down three pointers on back-to-back possessions and the last shot from SWOSU's SaRaya Oyler hit the back of the rim and bounced off, allowing the Vikings to advance.
Neither team shot the ball well in the first half, combining to hit just 2-of-20 attempts from three point range. SWOSU built the early 10-2 lead after Michelle Fisher put in her first points of the game with 15:48 to play in the half. Augustana responded by keeping SWOSU without a basket for more than five minutes and took the lead 13-12 with 11:10 to play.
While the struggles from the field continued, the SWOSU offense stayed aggressive and drew 14 fouls on Augustana and converted on 10-of-14 free throw attempts. The Lady Bulldogs again pushed the lead to eight, 26-18, on a TaNita Dewberry put back with just 2:53 remaining. After the Vikings scored five straight points, Kylie Boggess scored the final three points of the half and sent SWOSU to the break with a 29-23 lead.
The Vikings came out of the break on fire, outscoring SWOSU 19-5 over the first five minutes of the second period to grab a 42-34 lead with 15:12 to play. The lead stayed at seven points or more until Taryn Sayama was inserted into the SWOSU lineup and scored five points in 30 seconds, putting the Dawgs within four at 47-43.
Natalia Gibson finished off a 9-0 SWOSU run, tying the game at 47-47 with 9:46 to play and setting the stage for a fantastic finish. Neither team gained an advantage of more than three points down the stretch until Augustana hit their final free throws.
It wasn't until the 4:55 mark that SWOSU was able to regain the lead after Sarah Mendoza hit a three from the left corner, putting the Bulldogs on top 56-55. After Augustana came back to tie the game at 60-60, the seventh tie of the game, it was again Mendoza putting SWOSU on top with a driving layup at the 2:27 mark.
SWOSU got back-to-back defensive stops but were unable to add to their lead and Augustana took possession trailing 62-60 with 1:23 to play. On that possession, the Vikings found Faith Tinklenberg open for a three pointer and took the lead back at 63-62. SaRaya Oyler quickly responded and put SWOSU on top 64-63 with a jumper in the middle of the lane.
Augustana once again had an answer for SWOSU, however, with Alex Feeney kicking out of a double team to find Cami Koehn who knocked down the dagger, an open three pointer from the right wing. On their final possession, SWOSU got a good look for SaRaya Oyler, who had her shot hit the back iron and land in the arms of Koehn.
On Saturday evening, SWOSU was led by Fisher, who scored 13 points on 3-of-11 shooting and Mendoza who scored nine points in just 12 minutes of action after being limited by foul trouble. Elizabeth Lay scored seven points and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds in her final game in a SWOSU uniform.
The loss brings to a close the best season for SWOSU in its NCAA Division II history. Head coach Kelsi Musick led the Lady Bulldogs to a 24-7 record, a second place finish in the Great American Conference and the program's first postseason tournament appearance since the school was a member of the NAIA.