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NCAA women's basketball: Wartburg headed back to Final Four (PHOTOS/VIDEO)

NCAA women's basketball: Wartburg headed back to Final Four (PHOTOS/VIDEO)

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WAVERLY – Wartburg senior Katie Sommer jumped into her teammates’ arms and pumped her right fist.

Knights coach Bob Amsberry raised both arms in the air after cutting down the net.

The second-ranked Wartburg College women’s basketball team is headed back to the Final Four.

The Knights saw a 19-point lead dwindle to two before they outlasted unranked East Texas Baptist 65-61 in an NCAA Division III regional final before 2,150 fans Saturday night at Levick Arena.

Wartburg (31-0) advances to the Final Four to face Bowdoin College on Friday in Rochester, Minn. The Knights earned their second Final Four berth in the last three years.

“This senior class got it done – they are amazing,” Amsberry said. “They’ve built a winning culture and they’ve taught the young kids how to do it as well. This team is like a family.”

Katie Sommer turned in a superb all-around showing, finishing with 14 points, three assists and three steals.

“This team is selfless – we play for each other,” Sommer said. “It’s something special to go to the Final Four. We’re excited to see what we can do. This team has stuck together and we’ve been determined all year.”

Sommer connected on consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 20-0 run as Wartburg extended its lead to 19 points midway through the third quarter.

East Texas Baptist fought back, staging a furious fourth-quarter rally. The Tigers closed within 61-59 when Katy Boren swished a 3-pointer to cut Wartburg’s lead to 61-59 with 1:51 left.

The Knights rebounded when Morgan Neuendorf hit two free throws after being intentionally fouled with just over a minute left. And Wartburg extended its magical season for one more weekend.

Neuendorf finished with 19 points and six rebounds. Miranda Murphy added 13 points for the Knights.

“This team has great chemistry,” Neuendorf said. “We care deeply about each other and that fuels us on the court.”

Wartburg shot the lights out from the free-throw line, making its first 18 attempts before finishing 22-of-25 for the game.

The Knights struggled to generate much offensively to start the game against the Tigers’ zone defense.

Wartburg collected just three baskets in the opening 10 minutes and trailed 15-7 after an ugly first quarter.

“East Texas Baptist is for real,” Amsberry said. “They’re really good and really well-coached. And they’re really classy.”

The Knights started clicking early in the second quarter. Sommer and Neuendorf buried back-to-back 3-pointers before Sommer converted on a steal, bucket and free throw to put Wartburg up 16-15.

East Texas Baptist regained the lead before Sommer fired in a 25-footer to give Wartburg a 27-25 lead at the half.

East Texas Baptist coach Rusty Rainbolt offered words of encouragement to the Wartburg team and fans after the game.

“You have a tremendous atmosphere here which was great to play in – it was awesome,” said Rainbolt, whose team was 3-22 last season. “Good luck and go win the thing.”

Wartburg 65, E. Texas Baptist 61

EAST TEXAS BAPTIST (25-7) — Madison McCoy 3-8 2-2 9, Katy Boren 6-10, 2-2 18, Baylie Lindsey 2-2 0-0 5, Kim Childress 5-13 5-6 16, Amanda Wilson 3-3 0-0 6, Sydney Saxton 1-2 0-0 2, Erin Meeks 1-1 0-0 2, Karley McHenry 1-10, 0-0 3. Totals 22-51 9-10 61.

WARTBURG (31-0) — Katie Sommer 4-10 3-3 14, Morgan Neuendorf 6-15 5-8 19, Aryn Jones 2-5 2-2 6, Kristie Sommer 1-7 0-0 3, Miranda Murphy 3-7 7-8 13, Emma Gerdes 1-3 2-2 5, Abbie Haupert 0-1 0-0 0, Adrienne Boettger 1-2 3-4 5. Totals 18-50 22-25 65.

E. Texas Baptist 15 10 11 25 — 61

Wartburg 7 20 25 13 — 65

3-point goals – East Texas Baptist 8 (Boren 4, McCoy, Lindsey, Childress), Wartburg 7 (Katie Sommer 3, Neuendorf 2, Kristie Sommer, Gerdes). Rebounds – East Texas Baptist 32 (McCoy 7), Wartburg 33 (Neuendorf 6). Assists – East Texas Baptist 17 (McCoy 11), Wartburg 14 (Murphy 4). Total fouls – East Texas Baptist 24, Wartburg 13. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – East Texas Baptist coach Rusty Rainbolt.


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