IU Northwest earns first National Tournament birth since 2011, Monahan named Player of the Year
Point Lookout, Mo. – The No. 14 RedHawks started strong scoring the first five points of the A.I.I. Conference Championship game, however we're unable to sustain the momentum as host and No.1 seed dominated the second quarter en route to an 83-58 win over IU Northwest.
The RedHawks were held to just 33% shooting as the stifling Ozarks defense limited the IU Northwest all conference backcourt of Grayce Roach and Nicki Monahan to just 13 points on 5-27 shooting. Ozarks dominated on the glass collecting 21 offensive boards and holding the overall rebounding edge 49-39. IU Northwest's early lead was quickly erased and a corner three in the final seconds of the first quarter from Ozarks Kelsie Cleeton make the Bobcat lead 21-16.
Ozarks dominated the second period outscoring IU Northwest 27-7 to open up a substantial 48-23 halftime lead. The RedHawks regained solid footing the second half to play the Ozarks even in the second half led by the outside shooting of sophomore guard Gina Rubino's 17 points on 5-7 from long distance, however the lead was too large to overcome. Senior forward Nariman Jaber contributed 10 points, 5 rebounds and a block of the bench for the RedHawks.
On the previous day in a semifinal matchup with Haskell (Kan.) IU Northwest built a 30 point second half lead and held off a late Indians rally to win 71-64 to revenge a 83-81 A.I.I. semifinal loss to the Indians in last year's tournament and earn an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament for the first time since 2011. In the win over Haskell, 2017 A.I.I. Player of the Year Nicki Monahan poured in a game high 28 points on 6-11 from long distance while 2017 A.I.I. first team selection Grayce Roach added 10 points with Bernadette Grabowski and Gina Rubino adding 9 points each.
The RedHawks torched the Haskell 2-3 zone connecting on 8-19 from long range and getting several good looks inside with frontcourt of Kelsey Gushrowski, Nariman Jaber, Alexis Blake and Grabowski. Gushrowski tallied a game high 10 rebounds.
The win over Haskell also established a new single season program record for wins with 25.
"Although we were disappointed in our performance in the championship game versus a very good Ozarks team that played at a high-level on their home floor, we did accomplish a season-long goal of earning a spot in the national tournament while also setting a new school-record for wins. We are excited about being amongst the best teams in the nation in Sioux City again with the opportunity to compete for a national championship," said IUN Head Coach Ryan Shelton.
Monahan and Rubino were each named to the A.I.I. All-Tournament Team. Monahan averaged 18.8 points for the two games while Rubino averaged 13.5 for the weekend.
At the pre-tournament awards banquet the RedHawks record-breaking season was prominently recognized with Monahan and Roach each taking home first team all-conference honors. Monahan was named an A.I.I. First Team selection for the fourth consecutive season, while Roach picked up all-conference honors for the third time in as many seasons.
Monahan was selected as the A.I.I. Player of the Year for the second time in her career (2015, 2017) while Head Coach Ryan Shelton was selected by his peers at A.I.I. Coach of the Year for the fourth time in his career (2009, 2010, 2013, 2017).
The RedHawks currently ranked 14th in the nation will learn of their first-round opponent this Wednesday at 5pm as the entire bracket will be announced during a live selection show that can be seen online at:http://www.naianetwork.com/