Sweet ending for Sweet 16 bound Women's Hoops

Photo by Haley Staffon
Photo by Haley Staffon
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Junior center Hannah Spaulding finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks in 38 minutes of play as No. 6-ranked St. Thomas held off No. 9-ranked Chicago, 68-62 in Saturday night's NCAA women's basketball second-round playoffs at Schoenecker Arena.
 
The Tommies (27-2) pushed their win streak to 20, made it 10-0 in home postseason games the last two seasons, and advanced to the tournament's Sweet 16 round for the sixth time in the last seven years.
 
St. Thomas outscored the Maroons 9-4 over the final 3:38, including a 7-2 surge in the final 25 seconds. Chicago had rallied from a 36-22 halftime deficit to take a 58-57 lead just under four minutes to play.
 
Mia Farrell scored 19 of her game-high 23 points in the second half, and Ola Obi added 11 points, 15 rebounds and five steals for Chicago (24-3). The Maroons took a season-ending loss on the same floor for the second year in a row. They lost 73-69 to the Tommies in a similarly intense second-round NCAA playoff game in March 2017.
 
St. Thomas survived 21 turnovers as Chicago had 15 steals, but the Tommies sank nine 3-pointers to the Maroons' six. The Toms also made 15 of 16 at the foul line and converted 27 of 28 over the two home victories this weekend.
 
The Tommies made three huge baskets to help their cause. Kaylie Brazil sank a running trey at the end of the first half to extend the lead to 36-22. Lucia Renikoff's driving layup just before the third quarter ended kept their lead at 52-42. And with 21 seconds to go and UST clinging to a 61-60 lead, Maddie Wolkow sank a killer 3-pointer for a four-point cushion. In four postseason victories, Wolkow has made 14 of 27 from 3-point range.
 
Spaulding sank two free throws with 13 seconds left for a 66-62 lead, and after a Chicago missed shot, Wolkow was fouled on the rebound and sank the final two free throws with :03 remaining.
 
Freshman forward Kaia Porter came off the bench and matched her collegiate high with 14 points, and Brazil added 12 points, seven boards and five assists. The Tommies are 9-0 this season in games when Porter scores in doube figures.
 
The Tommies will meet unranked East Texas Baptist next Friday night at a site to be announced on Sunday. East Texas is in the NCAA playoffs for the first time and won 64-51 at Texas-Dallas on Saturday.
 
 
Notes
 
  • St. Thomas improved to 8-1 this season against 20-win teams, including a 3-1 record against squads still alive in the Sweet 16.
  • The Tommies are 19-6 this decade in NCAA tournament games.
  • St. Thomas made 9-of-21 from 3-point range and have won their last 41 games when they make eight or more treys.
  • Renikoff has made at least one 3-pointer in all 29 games this season.