St. Louis, MO 2/27/2022- The Westminster women's basketball team was back in St Louis on Saturday night to take on the one-seeded and undefeated Webster University Gorloks in the SLIAC Women's Basketball Championship. The last time the Gorloks lost a game was to the Blue Jays in last year's SLIAC championship game. The Blue Jays were looking for lightning to strike twice as they defended their crown and looked to repeat. After a back-and-forth game that saw seven ties, 13 lead changes, both teams making big plays and clutch shots. The Gorloks walked away victorious, taking down the Blue Jays 82-71.
Avylina Powell-Qualo (Republic, Mo./ Republic) got the Jays on the board to start the game and get an early 2 to nothing lead. For the next five minutes, the Blue Jays struggled to break the Gorlok press and would be down 10-4 heading into the under-five media timeout. The Blue Jays would respond coming out of the timeout. Reese Arnold (Lonedell, Mo./ Washington) got fouled on a shot attempt and went to the line. After making a pair of free throws, she cut the lead to 13-9. On the next possession by Webster, they were called for an offensive foul with 2:10 left to go in the 1st quarter. This led to an Arnold layup on the next play to make it 13-11. Then, after a Gorlok miss, Arnold hit a three to give the Blue Jays the lead for the first time since the opening possession. The Blue Jays rally had them up 16-15 after the first quarter of play.
Both teams would struggle to score in the opening minutes of the second quarter until Annette Ramirez (Sarcoxie, MO / Sarcoxie) hit a three with 7:45 on the clock and put Westminster up 18-16. The Gorloks would take the lead back after making a layup and getting fouled. After making the free throw, the three-point play meant they were back on top 19-18. The next thing you knew, the Blue Jays took the lead back, 27-23 with 5:05 to go in the first half after Powell-Qualo and Arnold went on a nine to two-run. This forced the Gorlok head coach to call a timeout and try to get compose the team. The Gorloks fought back and took the lead 33-32, with 2:00 left in the second quarter. The teams headed to the locker rooms after a hard-fought first half with the Gorloks leading the Blue Jays 34-32.
The Gorloks extended their lead to seven in the first two minutes of the second half. The Blue Jays countered back. They got an offensive rebound by Powell-Qualo that turned into a Ramirez three. Putting the Blue Jays down just three points with 8:03 to go in the third quarter. A bit later in the quarter, the Gorloks hit a three, putting them up 44-36 at the 5:15 mark of the third quarter. Madison Schaeffer (Cincinnati, Ohio / Fairfield) got a steal that led to Ramirez getting a fast break layup. The steal saw the Jays down two points with 3:05 on the clock. Shelby Kurtz (Camdenton, Mo. / Camdenton) went to the foul line and brought her team to within one point of the Gorloks with two minutes left in the third. Ramirez drew another foul on the next Westminster possession. After making the free throws, the Blue Jays had the lead back once again at 46-45. This proved to be short-lived. The Gorloks immediately took it back on a three-pointer. Kurtz got fouled with 30 seconds left in the quarter. She made both free throws tying the game again at 48-48. The Gorloks scored the next time down regaining the lead 50-48. Ramirez went to the line at the end of the quarter. She would make one free throw, making the score 50-49 after three quarters.
Kurtz banged home a three to open the 4th, giving Westminster a 52-50 lead. Webster tied it after a Blue Jay turnover. Ramirez hit a three after Kurtz hauled in a huge offensive rebound and put the Blue Jays up 55-52, with 8:20 to play. Arnold hit a beautiful behind-the-back crossover pull-up jump shot to give Westminster their largest lead of the second half going up five with 6:59 to play. The Gorloks went to the line with 5:47 on the clock and pulled to within one after making both free throws. Webster took the lead back one more time at 58-57 with 5:20 to play and would not give it back again. They went on a 19 to 4 run that ended in a three-pointer that proved to be the dragger on the Blue Jays championship hopes. The shot put the Gorloks up 77-62 with 51 seconds to play. Webster would win 82-71 to claim the SLIAC Women's Basketball Tournament Championship and advanced NCAA DIII Women's Basketball National Tournament.
Ramirez led the Blue Jays in scoring with 18. Arnold scored 14 points. Kurtz would also score 14 points and record nine rebounds. Powell-Qualo and Schaeffer scored 24 total points and pulled in 20 rebounds in the Blue Jay frontcourt.
After the game, the conference announced that Ramirez and Arnold made the 2022 SLIAC Women's Basketball All-Tournament team. It was also announced that Ramirez won both the SLIAC Newcomer of the Year and SLIAC 6th Women of the Year. Arnold made First Team All-Conference. Schaeffer made Second Team All-Conference. Kurtz and Powell-Qualo were both named Third Team All-Conference. Kurtz also made the All-Defensive Team. Senior Amorette Rodriguez (Los Angeles, California / Whittier) made the All-Sportsmanship Team.
Congratulations to these ladies on their accomplishments and the Blue Jays on a great season, finishing with an 18-10 overall record.