Stoewer’s Heroics Give ICC M-WAC Crown and Record

Summer Stoewer scored the go-ahead basket with 2.9 seconds to lift the No. 1 Illinois Central College women’s basketball team to a thrilling 71-70 victory over No. 5 Lincoln Land in front of a standing room only crowd at Ramsey Gym on Saturday (March 2) afternoon. 

The freshman led ICC with 19 points while Abby Coates added 17 points and nine rebounds, earning the Cougars the outright M-WAC championship crown. The conference championship is a first for the Cougars, who just joined the M-WAC this season. The victory was also the 29th game in a row the Cougars have won, which  gives them the longest winning streak in the storied program history.  ICC is now 29-1 overall on the season, while Lincoln Land dropped to 25-3.

The Cougars’ offense hummed to start the game as they dished out nine assists in the first quarter, including five from point guard Kathy Pinnock-Branford. Marquitta Easley and Madison Faulkner combined for the first eight points and then 3-pointers from Easley and Stoewer gave the Cougars their largest lead of the day at 20-11 at the 3-minute mark. LLCC found their groove and closed the gap to 22-17 heading into the second period. 

An Easley basket gave ICC a 24-20 lead, but the Logger defense picked up, spearheading an 11-1 run to go ahead 31-25. The Loggers continued to keep ICC off-balance, opening up their largest lead at 36-29 with just under 2 minutes to play, but ICC closed on a 6-0 run on two Moriah Ward put-backs and a Stoewer hoop, assisted by Jordyn Hare, to draw to within 36-35 at the half.

ICC shot a dismal 29 percent in the quarter (6-21) while LLCC cruised along at 47 percent (8-17), so the Cougars were lucky to be that close given the circumstances.

The Blue & Gold grabbed the lead back on a 3-pointer by Coates, assisted by Pinnock-Branford, but the see-saw affair continued as neither team could get more than a two-point lead midway through the third quarter. Coates scored on an offensive rebound and Stoewer connected on a trey, assisted by Becker, to put ICC up 51-48, but the Loggers responded with a 8-0 run to steal the lead back at 56-51. 

ICC used back to back 3-pointers in the final 46 seconds by Stoewer and Henderson to trim the LLCC lead to 58-57 to set up an exciting final stanza.

The Loggers scored on their first two possessions of the fourth to go up 62-57, but Faulkner answered with a post move, assisted by Easley, Pinnock-Branford added a free throw, and Easley splashed in a 3-pointer, assisted by Pinnock-Branford, and ICC grabbed a 63-62 lead with 6:51 left. 

The lead was short-lived, however, as the Loggers scored on their next three possessions and the Cougars came up empty, allowing LLCC to take a 68-63 lead with 4:44 to play. Both teams went scoreless for the next two minutes until Easley drove the lane and found Faulkner who laid it in for a reverse finish to cut the deficit to 68-65. 

Stoewer snagged a steal on the next possession and went in for a layup but was fouled and sank two free throws to close to within 68-67 with 2:27 to play. Both teams had empty possessions until Coates drove the baseline and finished on a reverse of her own, putting the Cougars up 69-68 with 38 seconds to play.  ICC got a stop on the next possession but stepped out of bounds, giving LLCC the ball back under their own basket with :26 seconds left. 

The Loggers banked in a five footer, giving them a 70-69 advantage with 8 seconds left. After ICC called a timeout and advanced the ball over half court, Coates cut to the wing and hit Stoewer on the block, and with the defender stuck to her like glue, managed to finish a 3-foot shot of her own to put the Cougars up 71-70 with 2.8 seconds left. 

LLCC advanced the ball but Easley and Stoewer created a turnover and the Cougars celebrated the win and the outright conference championship.

Individual Stats

Becker (5 asts, 3 reb) Hare (1 ast) Faulkner (12 pts, 5 reb) Ward (10 reb, 6pts, 1 blk) Stoewer (19 pts) Pinnock-Branford (7 asts, 5 reb) Henderson (3 pts) Coates (17 pts, 9 reb) Easley (14 pts, 4 reb)

Next Up

Region 24 tournament time is here and ICC has the No. 1 seed, meaning they had a bye in quarterfinal action on Wed, March 6. We will send out an email on either Thursday or Friday to let fans know who we will play on Saturday and include information about possible live-streaming/broadcasting.