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NCAA women's basketball: Bowdoin ends Wartburg's storybook season (PICTURES)
NCAA WOMEN’S FINAL FOUR

NCAA women's basketball: Bowdoin ends Wartburg's storybook season (PICTURES)

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ROCHESTER, Minn. — The best women’s basketball team in Wartburg College history had momentum, support and a sense of belief that they could cap this season with the program’s first national championship.

A blend of fans in orange and white flooded Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center, transforming Friday’s NCAA Division III Final Four nightcap into a virtual Wartburg home game.

By the fourth quarter, that hopeful and enthusiastic crowd had largely been reduced to library silence.

Bowdoin College simply wouldn’t be denied.

The Polar Bears from Brunswick, Maine, quickly took control with a blend of lights-out shooting and dominant rebounding leading to a 16-point lead seven minutes into a convincing, 90-62 victory.

Penetration off the dribble often freed up reserve Abby Kelly, Bowdoin’s leading scorer on the season, who led the initial charge with five 3-pointers and 19 first-half points en route to a game-high 23. Bowdoin (29-2) held a 13-3 advantage rebounding during its opening flurry and took a 28-12 lead into the second quarter.

“Bowdoin exposed us in about every way that I couldn’t even imagine,” Wartburg coach Bob Amsberry said. “They’re really good and they earned that thing. ... They attacked it really well and had a great shooting night.”

A Wartburg team (31-1) that reached the season’s final weekend perfect with five battle-tested seniors steering the ship, looked shell-shocked early.

Led by All-America point guard Katie Sommer, the Knights briefly regrouped.

Wartburg cut a deficit as large as 20 at the 6:16 mark of the second quarter in half after Sommer helped facilitate a 7-2 run to start the third quarter.

“I told them let’s fight, we’re fighters, we’re going to do this,” Sommer said. “We’re going to keep fighting and not give up. We kept fighting, and it just didn’t turn out our way.”

Bowdoin’s Kelly quickly doused those flames with Wartburg trying to gain traction. She hit a jumper before Lauren Petit added a 3-pointer as part of her 16-point game and a 12-0 run that pushed the Polar Bears’ lead back to 22.

Bowdoin finished 10 of 25 from 3-point range and shot 50 percent from the field to go with a perfect 12 of 12 effort from the free throw line and a 21-13 advantage in turnovers.

Playing in a NESCAC conference that is the nation’s toughest, the Polar Bears have already avenged a previous league loss to Tufts with an 18-point Elite Eight win. Now, they’ll attempt to snap a 65-game win streak by an Amherst team that was four points better in their previous encounter.

For Wartburg, the final chapter closed on the most successful senior class in program history. It includes four 1,000-point scorers, this year’s perfect regular season and the program’s first two Final Four trips in three years.

Katie Sommer led the Knights with 16 points, five assists and four steals in her final game. Senior classmates Miranda Murphy and Aryn Jones added 12 and 10 points, respectively, while sophomore Emma Gerdes finished with 11.

Amsberry said what he’ll remember most about the group goes beyond the stats and wins. After Friday night’s loss, an underclassman spoke up in the locker room, revealing what has made this group special.

“She said, ‘You did it the right way, you taught us how, and our number one goal remains to keep that championships culture,’” Amsberry related. “I think that says a lot about this group.”

One of five senior starters, Miranda Murphy won’t soon forget the support her team had during its final game together.

“From our freshman year to now, it’s been amazing to see the growth from everyone involved in the program and the community support that we’ve built throughout the years,” Murphy said. “Tonight you could see in the stands there was not an open seat behind our bench. That’s a great atmosphere.”

Amsberry, the DIII national coach of the year, knows this was a captivating team.

“It was special and our kids felt special,” Amsberry said. “Thanks to Knight nation. People that followed us mean so much to us and packed this place.

“They did that because of our group and the way they did it. I told them in the locker room we generated this much support. There’s a lot of people out there supporting us that I don’t even know. That tells me that we did it the right way.”

Bowdoin 90, Wartburg 62

BOWDOIN (29-2) — Choate 4-13 4-4 12, Kerrigan 5-10 0-0 11, Pettit 5-8 2-2 16, Caputi 2-4 0-0 4, Stewart 4-6 1-1 9, Roy 1-5 0-0 2, Field 0-0 2-2 2, Train 0-0 0-0 0, Hasson 3-3 3-3 9, Cohen 0-2 0-0 0, Kelly 9-16 0-0 23, Cohen 0-0 0-0 0, Ware 0-0 0-0 0, Graham 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 34-69 12-12 90.

WARTBURG (31-1) — Ka. Sommer 4-9 7-10 16, Neuendorf 2-10 1-1 5, Jones 4-10 2-2 10, Kr. Sommer 1-4 0-0 3, Mi. Murphy 4-7 2-4 12, Me. Murphy 0-0 0-0 0, Gerdes 3-6 3-4 11, Lindeman 0-0 0-0 0, Conrad 0-0 0-0 0, Shoen 0-1 0-0 0, Kimball 0-1 0-0 0, Volesky 0-0 0-0 0, Haupert 1-1 0-0 2, Boettger 1-2 1-4 3. Totals 20-51 16-25 62.

Bowdoin 28 18 26 18 — 90

Wartburg 12 19 18 13 — 62

3-point goals — Bowdoin 10-25 (Choate 0-4, Kerrigan 1-3, Petit 4-6, Roy 0-1, Kelly 5-11), Wartburg 6-18 (Ka. Sommer 1-4, Neuendorf 0-2, Kr. Sommer 1-4, Mi. Murphy 2-4, Gerdes 2-3, Kimball 0-1). Rebounds — Bowdoin 40 (Kerrigan 12), Wartburg 30 (Neuendorf, Mi. Murphy 6). Assists — Bowdoin 22 (Kerrigan 6), Wartburg 13 (Ka. Sommer 5). Turnovers — Bowdoin 13 (Choate 3), Wartburg 21 (Ka. Sommer 5). Blocks — Bowdoin 0, Wartburg 3 (three at 1). Steals — Bowdoin 13 (Petit 4), Wartburg 9 (Ka. Sommer 4). Total fouls — Bowdoin 20, Wartburg 15. Fouled out — none.

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