MILWAUKEE - Kristen Schulz (Safford, Ariz./Arizona Lutheran) stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, 18 rebounds, and eight blocks to send the Wisconsin Lutheran College women's basketball team to its fourth straight Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance by virtue of a 60-57 victory over Alverno Saturday afternoon at the Recreation Complex. The Warriors (24-3) extended their program-record winning streak to 23 games.
The top-seeded Warriors started out slowly for the second straight game. Third-seeded Alverno (19-9) opened the contest with a 6-0 run until Melanie Laete (Spokane, Wash./Evergreen Lutheran) scored a layup on an assist from Schulz at the 17:05 mark. The Inferno led by as many as eight in the opening 20 minutes before WLC took its first lead on a layup by Christel Frey (Milwaukee, Wis./Wisconsin Lutheran) with 3:13 remaining in the half. Kelli Johnson's (Milwaukee, Wis./Wisconsin Lutheran) layup with 33 seconds left before hafltime sent the Warriors to the break with a 28-25 lead.
Laete led the Warriors with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the half, and Schulz added eight points. Both teams found success inside in the opening frame, as WLC out-scored Alverno 24-16 in the paint. The Warriors committed 11 turnovers in the half, which led to 10 points for Alverno.
Alverno opened the second half on a 6-1 run before WLC hit its first field goal of the period on a layup by Johnson at the 14:36 mark to tie the game at 31-31. Brittanny Bahr (Racine, Wis./Shoreland Luthran) canned a three-pointer on the next possession to hand the Warriors a 34-31 lead they would not relinquish. WLC used a 10-3 burst to push the lead to a game-high nine points on Laete's jumper with 3:34 to play.
The Warriors still led by eight with 45 seconds remaining before the Inferno made one last push. Devon Gorman and Tessa Mersberger connected on back-to-back threes to trim WLC's lead to just 59-57 with 27 seconds left. After Frey split a pair at the free throw line, Alverno had a chance to tie. Mersberger missed a contested 3-point shot at the top of the key with seven seconds left, and Schulz corralled the rebound to seal the victory and championship for the Warriors.
Schulz recorded her 21st double-double of the season, and her eight blocks were a career-high and tied for third-most in a game in school history. Laete contributed 16 points and five rebounds, while Johnson provided energy off the bench with 10 points and five boards. Bahr tallied eight points and dished out a game-high five assists.
Devon Gorman led the Inferno with 14 points. Jamie Hoernke chipped in with 11 and Mollie Mikyska scored eight points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Wisconsin Lutheran will find out its NCAA Tournament first round opponent Monday when the field of 64 teams is released on NCAA.com. Fans are welcome to join the team in the college's Siebert Center at 1:30 p.m. for the selection show.