FORT MYERS, Fla.- The No. 1 FGCU Eagles are headed to Kearney, Nebraska as they defeated the No. 4 Delta St. Lady Statesmen 57-44 in front of a record crowd of 4012 at Alico Arena. The Eagles will face North Dakota St. in Division II Elite Eight on March 21. This is the farthest any FGCU athletic program has advanced.
Katie Schrader's (Sr., Fort Collins, Colo.) three and a couple free throws by Adrianne McNally (Fr., Howell, MI) gave the Eagles a quick 5-0 lead. Brittani Calhoun and Jennifer Rushing answered with hoops of their own. FGCU then went on a 9-0 run to increase the lead to 14-4. During that run, Ashley Haegele got a three point play right before the under 12 minute media time-out to electrify the crowd, to make the score 11-4. Delta St. and FGCU traded baskets before the Lady Statesmen went on a 12-4 run over the next seven minutes to make the score 18-16 in favor of the Eagles. The Eagles built the lead back to five at 23-18 on a three pointer by Haegele before Delta St. ended the half with a lay-up from Calhoun to make the score at half 23-20.
Both teams shot very poorly in the first half with FGCU shooting 33% on 7-of-21 from the floor and Delta St. shooting 29% at 10-of-34 from the floor. The Eagles were a little sloppy in the first half as Delta St. forced nine first half turnovers scoring 10 points off those turnovers compared to only three points for FGCU off only four turnovers for Delta St.
Rushing scored the first hoop of the second half one and half minutes into it but that was quickly answered by Schrader's lay-up on a great pass by Steffi Sorensen (Fr., Jacksonville, Fla.) and then a fast break lay-up by Sorensen which brought the crowd to their feet and made the score 27-22. Sorensen scored all 14 of her points in the second half as she has now scored 25 points in the last two games all in the second half. After a jumper by Rushing the Eagles went on a 13-4 run to build their lead to 40-28. Sorensen hit another three and Delta St. was called for a foul on the same play and the Eagles scored on the inbound play to give the Eagles five points in one second.
The teams traded baskets and Delta St. could not get any closer than eight points as the Eagles ran away with game and went onto win 57-44. FGCU is now headed to Kearney, Nebraska and will face North Dakota, a 108-75 winner over Nebraska-Kearney.
"(Delia) De La Torre came up with huge offensive rebounds and put backs down the stretch for us," stated Head Coach Karl Smesko.
FGCU was led by Sorensen, who was named to the all-tournament team, with 14 points (all in the second half), Schrader, named the MVP, finished with 13 and Haegele came off the bench in a huge way to score 11 points. Delia De La Torre (Jr., Las Cruces, NM) was also huge off the bench as she scored eight points and a team high five rebounds. Alex Nelson also was selected to the all-tournament team.
The Eagles will face North Dakota on Wednesday March 21 in Kearney, Nebraska at 9:00 pm with a chance to go to the NCAA Women's Final Four.