Women’s Basketball Earn Region 24 Title and Headed to Nationals

Summer Stoewer’s 28 points led the ICC women’s basketball team to an 86-66 victory over Lincoln Land in the Region 24 championship on Sunday afternoon in Danville, punching the Cougars’ ticket to the NJCAA Division II Nationals on March 18-23 in Harrison, Arkansas.

Stoewer sparkled from everywhere, hitting on 10 of 13 shots from the field, including six of eight from 3-point range, while Abby Coates (13 points) and Marquitta Easley (10 points) also reached double figures. But, as special as these three were, the team theme of “Stronger Together” held true as the ladies received contributions from up and down the lineup all afternoon.

The No. 1 ranked Cougars move their record to 31-1 overall, while Lincoln Land, who finished ranked fifth in the national poll, closes out at 27-4.

The pace was fast and furious from the tip as both teams started out hot. Easley, Kathy PInnock-Branford, and Madison Faulkner helped the Cougars keep pace at 8-all, but LLCC surged to a 14-9 lead midway through the quarter. Coates got rolling to score the next six points, followed by a Stoewer trey and five points from Emma Henderson to knot the score at 21-all. Stoewer and Coates added scores to help ICC post a 27-26 lead in what was a high-scoring first period.

Stoewer and Josi Becker each nailed 3-pointers, with assists by Pinnock-Branford and Easley, followed by two Catora Brown free throws that gave ICC a 35-34 advantage midway through the quarter, but the fouls and turnovers became an issue for the Cougars. The Blue & Gold managed only an Easley basket, assisted by Becker, over the final 4:35, while coughing up the ball eight of their last 10 possessions, allowing the Loggers to take a 41-37 lead going into halftime.

The start to the third quarter was nothing short of spectacular for Stoewer, as she scored the 11 points in the first two minutes on four consecutive possessions. First, she nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key on a set play, assisted by Pinnock-Branford. Then on a different set, she nailed another 3 from the right side of the key, assisted by Easley. On the next play, she made a basket cut and finished an acrobatic right-handed layup, assisted by Pinnock-Branford. She finished things off as she splashed in another 3-ball from the right wing in transition, assisted by Pinnock-Branford, giving the Cougars a 48-45 edge and a lead they would never relinquish.

The Loggers continued to get their own baskets, but the Cougars kept the lead as Jordyn Hare hit a jumper, assisted by Becker, and Coates scored on a putback to stay up 54-52 with 4:30 to play in the third. Stoewer then hit two free throws after being fouled on a putback, sparking an 11-1 run over the last two minutes as Pinnock-Branford sliced in the lane for a bucket. She then cut backdoor for a layup, assisted by Stoewer, and Faulkner scored on an old-fashioned 3-point play, assisted by Becker, to give ICC a 63-53 lead. Pinnock-Branford took a charge on the Loggers’ last possession of the quarter to give the Cougars some more momentum heading into the fourth.

LLCC scored to cut the ICC lead to 63-55, but that was as close as they would get as ICC’s depth started to wear the Loggers down. Pinnock-Branford corralled a Cougar miss and scored, followed by a Stoewer shake-and-bake in the lane to go up 67-55. Coates scored a jumper on an out-of-bounds play, followed by a Faulkner driving layup to keep the lead at a dozen to 71-59 with 5:10 to play. Stoewer hit her sixth 3-pointer in the corner to put ICC up 76-61 and then then next couple of possessions were textbook offense, as Ward got free inside for three buckets, with assists from Pinnock-Branford, Faulkner and Becker, and the Cougars could see the championship ending in sight. Raven Overman put the finishing touches with an offensive putback for the final margin.

After committing 15 turnovers in the first half, the Cougars had only four in the second half, which helped the cause significantly, along with their shooting — 35-67 for 52 percent, including eight of 17 from 3-point range.

ICC dominated in the second half as they outscored Lincoln Land 46-25 in the second half, limiting them to 33 percent field goal shooting.

Individual Stats

Faulkner (7 pts) Stoewer (28 pts) Pinnock-Branford (8 pts, 7 asts, 5 reb, 1 chg taken) Coates (13 pts, 7 reb) Easley (10 pts) Becker (3 pts, 3 asts) Hare (4 reb, 2 pts) Brown (2 pts) Overman (2 pts) Ward (10 reb, 6 pts) Henderson (5 pts, 3 reb)

Region 24 Honors

In addition to hoisting the Region 24 plaque and cutting down the nets, three Cougars were named All-Region in Stoewer, Coates, and Easley, as well as the coaching staff of Karrie Redeker, Greg Martin, Stan Prosser, Dennie Hieronymus, Jayson Alexander, Destiny Ramsey, and Brooklyn Eberle being named Coaching Staff of the Year.

Next Up

The Cougars, who have now advanced to the national tournament for the second consecutive year and third time in the last four years, will now await for seeding to come out later this week before departing for Harrison on Sunday, March 17. The national tournament features sixteen teams and is a double elimination tourney.