Two days after a thrilling comeback victory in the semifinals, the Blugolds weren’t able to summon any more magic in Sunday’s WIAC Tournament championship game.
The Blugolds fell to the No. 1 seeded UW-Whitewater Warhawks 71-62 in Whitewater. The Blugolds trailed by 14 points entering the fourth quarter and were unable to pull off another late comeback.
To begin the game in the first quarter, the Warhawks outshot the Blugolds from outside, going 4-7 on three-pointers versus 0-6 for the Blugolds. However, after one quarter of play, the Warhawks only led 18-15.
The Blugolds were having most of their early offensive success in the paint but struggled overall to convert shots offensively throughout the first quarter. Good defensive play kept them within three points of the Warhawks at the end of the quarter.
Senior forward Tyra Boettcher hit the Blugolds’ first three-pointer of the game to make it 25-23 Warhawks with 3:30 left in the first half. The Blugolds were 0-9 on three-pointers until that shot.
The second quarter was low scoring for both teams, as both teams struggled to make shots. Both teams played well defensively to limit wide open looks for the opposition.
At halftime, UW-Whitewater led 31-28 after the two teams played an even 13-13 second quarter. The Blugolds shot 25% from the floor and the Warhawks shot 23.5%.
Boettcher led the Blugolds with ten points in the first half. The Blugolds were 1-11 on three-pointers in the first half.
The third quarter was a slow one on offense for the Blugolds. However, they still managed to keep the game close for much of the quarter with their effort on the defensive end.
With 3:30 left in the third quarter, Blugold senior forward/center Kylie Mogen hit a three-pointer to bring the Blugolds back within three points of the Warhawks, 39-36.
However, what followed was a 7-0 run for the Warhawks, and with two minutes left in the third quarter, the Blugolds trailed 46-36.
The Blugolds entered the fourth quarter trailing 51-37 after shooting 25% from the floor in the third. The Warhawks outscored UW-EC in 20-9 in the quarter while shooting 46.7% from the floor.
The Blugolds got some offense going in the fourth quarter, but they needed to go on a major run to get back in the game.
The Blugolds couldn’t get enough stops late in the game as they tried to rally. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Blugolds fell behind 64-47 after a Warhawk three-pointer.
The Blugolds managed a 6-0 run to get within 11 points of the Warhawks with three minutes left. They came back from a 12-point deficit with 3:30 left in the semifinals against UW-Stout two days prior.
The Blugolds were unable to summon the comeback magic from their previous win in this game. The Warhawks went 5-6 from the free throw line down the stretch to help seal the victory.
Blugold senior guard Jessie Ruden hit a three-pointer in the final seconds for the Blugolds, but they still fell 71-62.
The Blugolds shot 64% from the floor in the fourth quarter and managed 25 points, but they couldn’t get enough stops defensively, giving up 20 fourth quarter points.
In the end, the deficit the Blugolds put themselves in early in the second half was too much for them to overcome in this game.
Boettcher led the Blugolds with 20 points in the game. Junior point guard Kylie Strop and Mogen each had ten points, and Ruden and senior forward Bailey Reardon each had eight points.
With the loss in the WIAC tournament title game, the Blugolds missed out on an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
The Blugolds will learn if they earned an at-large bid into the tournament during the selection show on Monday, Feb. 27, at 2 p.m.
Last season after clinching the automatic bid from their WIAC tournament win, the Blugolds hosted the first two rounds at Zorn Arena and reached the second round.