After opening its season with 11 consecutive victories, the St. Thomas women’s basketball team suffered a 60-40 nonconference loss at Wartburg on Dec. 30.
Tommies guard Kaylie Brazil, a senior from Norwood Young America, said the 20-point defeat got the Tommies’ attention and helped propel them into this weekend’s NCAA Division III Final Four in Salem, Va.
“That ... game was a tough point in our season,” Brazil told d3hoops.com. “In the locker room, we were determined to get back on the court and hoped for another chance to play them. Our energy shifted following that loss. We had to be present with every movement, every practice and make every rep count.”
Coach Ruth Sinn agreed.
“Our defense wasn’t there [against Wartburg]. We went away from our concepts, and I told them defense has to be our mainstay,” Sinn told d3hoops.com. “We also didn’t prepare well that day. I reminded them we are getting everyone’s best shot. We learned from that game.”
After the loss, the Tommies regrouped and went unbeaten in MIAC play for the third consecutive season. The Tommies extended their winning streak to 19 games last Saturday with an 85-56 victory over Wartburg in the Elite Eight. They tied a school record with 16 three-pointers.
The victory put the Tommies in the Final Four for the seventh time in program history and for the second time in three years. St. Thomas’ only two Final Four wins came in 1991 when it won its only national title. It is 0-5 since then.
Hannah Spaulding, a 6-2 senior from Annandale, Minn., is averaging 18.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and was named the West Region Player of the Year by d3hoops.com. She is shooting a Division III-best 70.1 percent from the field.
Kaia Porter, a sophomore from Roseville who was named second-team All-West Region, is averaging 13.1 points, and Lucia Renikoff, a senior from Minneapolis, is averaging 12 points.
The Tommies, who are 144-10 in the past five seasons, are allowing just 50 points per game, and opponents are shooting only 32.6 percent against them.