St. Louis, MO, 12/31/21 – A New Year's Eve date with perennial NCAA Division III women's basketball power the Washington University Bears in St. Louis, MO provided the Blue Jay women's basketball team their final test before opening up SLIAC play next week. The Blue Jays were prepared and ready to go right out of the gate. They defended the Bears tough in the first quarter, fighting through screens and contesting every Bear possession. Seven Reese Arnold (Lonedell, Mo. / Washington) points fueled the offense. The first quarter ended with the Blue Jays on top by a score of 17-9.
The second quarter saw the Bears get their footing and charge back into the game by outscoring the Jays 17-11 in the second quarter. A Caragan Lockard (Eolia, MO / Clopton) lay-up ensured that the Blue Jays would retain the lead going into the half 28-26 but the Bears were back in the game. The third quarter saw the Bears take their first lead at 31-28 but the Blue Jays quickly reclaimed the lead on an Abbie Reece (Cape Girardeau, Mo. / Cape Central) lay-up and two Madison Schaeffer (Cincinnati, Ohio / Fairfield) free throws. The game went back and forth in the third quarter. A Chloe Akerson (Saint Louis, Mo. / Lutheran South) lay-up off an Arnold assist with 1:01 to play in the quarter gave the Blue Jays their last lead at 44-43. The Bears would hit a three pointer with just 15 seconds left to take a 46-44 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bears would use a 10-0 run to push their lead to 53-44 with 8:18 to play in the game. The Jays would fight back and after an Arnold three pointer and a Schaeffer jump hook cut the Bear lead to 60-56 with just over five minutes to play. It appeared the Blue Jays were building momentum but a 6-0 run by the Bears pushed the lead to their biggest of the night at 66-56 with just 3:30 to play in the game. The Bears would hit enough free throws to hold off the Blue Jays for a 71-64 victory. The loss drops the Blue Jays record to 4-7 as they complete the non-conference portion of their schedule. The Bears improve to 5-5.
Arnold and Schaeffer would lead the Blue Jays with 16 points each. Avylina Powell-Qualo (Republic, MO / Republic) contributed nine points and Abbie Reece chipped in eight off the bench. Schaeffer led the Jays on the boards as she hauled in nine rebounds followed by Arnold with six. The Blue Jays battled the Bears to a near draw on the boards as the Bears eked out a 39-38 edge on the boards. Shelby Kurtz (Camdenton, MO / Camdenton) led the team with five assists and two steals. Powell-Qualo and Schaeffer also came up with two steals each.
The Blue Jays have wrapped up a very difficult non-conference schedule and will now turn their attention to the 14 game SLIAC schedule. The top six finishers will qualify for the year end conference tournament. The winner of that tournament will qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Jays won the tournament last season, but the NCAA Tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blue Jays will open on the road on Wednesday January 5th against the Eureka College Red Devils. The game is set for a 3:00 p.m. tip off.