It was a tale of two halves for the Cornerstone women's basketball team as they fell to Mayville State University in the opening round of the NAIA Division II National Tournament by a score of 86-82 on Thursday.
The Golden Eagles came out of the gate on fire scoring the first eight points of the contest. The 8-0 run all came from the paint with four of the points off the hand of Jill Hendrickson on two free throws and a bucket. The momentum continued as the CU women increased their lead to 26-4 on a three-point basket and put back on back-to-back possessions by Taylor Dean with 12:37 to go in the half. The Comets then began to chip away and the Golden Eagles led at the break by only 10, 41-31. CU's last point in the first half came at the 3:54 mark as the Comets slowed down the tempo and Golden Eagles finished their last seven possessions without a field goal. MSU's energy to close out the first half continued into the final stanza.
Cornerstone's balanced scoring, outside shooting, and fast tempo gave them the edge in the first half. Sever players were in the scoring column with Kate Cousins leading the attack with 11 points. The Golden Eagles knocked down five three-pointers and shot 42% from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes; 17% better than their season average from three-point range. Defensively, they held MSU to a chilling 20% from beyond the arc, a team that averaged 38% on the regular season.
In the second half, the Golden Eagles saw their lead quickly dissolve as the Comets took their first lead of the game (46-45) with 14:34 left on the clock. Over the next three minutes, there were six leads changes on baskets and answers by both teams. Jill Steenwyk contributed five points in the span on a three-pointer and put back. Cornerstone's basket with 13:11 remaining on a drive by Cousins put the Golden Eagles up 52-51; this would be the last lead of the game for CU.
Mayville State grew their lead to as many as 10 points with 7:21 remaining in the game. The Golden Eagles continued to fight and got back within in four (72-68) on a stolen inbounds pass by Tanner Hostetler which led to a lay-up and a free throw by Janae Trombley. After another run by the Comets and the CU women found themselves in their biggest deficit of the night as they were down by 11 with 1:45 to go in the game.
Cornerstone continued to claw their way back with three-pointers by Hostetler and Cousins on the two of the next three possessions to pull them within five (79-84) with 45 seconds on the clock. With 6 seconds remaining, Hendrickson converted a basket and was fouled on the shot. Her ensuing made free throw put CU within three. Cornerstone quickly fouled, but Mayville State converted one of two free throws to go up by four and secure the win 86-82.
The Golden Eagles finished the game with five players in double figures. Jill Steenwyk led the attack with a career high 17 points followed by Cousins (16), Hendrickson (14), Dean (11), and Hostetler (10) all in double digits. Trombley and Ashley Neidermayer each added seven points. Jill Hendrickson finished the game with another double-double as she collected 18 rebounds. Cousins and Hendrickson each dished out three assists while Hostetler grabbed two steals.
The Cornerstone women finished the season with a 22-10 record. The Golden Eagles will say goodbye to seniors Katelyn Cousins, Janae Trombley, and Olivia Jewett.