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Crusaders pull away from Warriors

waldorf-warriors-outline_1By Matt Oliver
FOREST CITY – The Waldorf College women’s basketball team challenged Clarke University from the opening tip, but couldn’t keep pace in a 77-59 loss on Monday.
Leading 28-21 at the end of the first quarter, the Crusaders (12-10) had their work cut out for them early in the wire-to-wire win.
“Our girls had a great start to the game,” Waldorf coach Katie Schutjer said. “That’s how we need to start to be in position to win games.”
Nine first-half turnovers slowed the Warriors (1-19), who were limited to seven points through the first five minutes of the second quarter. Clarke built a 46-33 halftime lead and capitalized on miscues, gaining a 10-2 advantage in fast-break points throughout the night.
“We had a scoring drought in the second quarter and made some bad turnovers, which caused them to get some fast-break opportunities,” Schutjer said. “The third quarter was the same story.”
The Crusaders led by as many as 21 points, stretching their lead to 63-42 after three quarters. Waldorf battled back, putting together a 9-4 run to trim Clarke’s advantage to 67-53 with 4 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the game.
“We came out and had a pretty good fourth quarter because we got rebounds and converted on offense,” Schutjer said.
The Crusaders pulled away as they narrowly outscored the Warriors 10-6 down the stretch.
Samantha Birkes led Waldorf with 15 points. The 5-foot-9 freshman guard from Sioux City dished out four assists, grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots.
Freshman Ameh Ogbemudia dropped in 11 points on 5-of-11 (45.4 percent) shooting, pulled down a team-high nine boards and turned in a career-high four blocks for the Warriors.
Sophomore Jessica Denholm provided 12 points, going 5-of-9 (55.6 percent) from the field. Denholm handed out four assists, collected three rebounds and came away with a team-high two steals.
Waldorf freshman Kassidy Bunger added eight points and seven boards. Freshman Taylor Fricke scored five points to go along with three assists and three rebounds. Freshmen Meriel Leavy and Taylor Kurtz finished with four points apiece. Leavy contributed five boards and two blocks while Kurtz closed out the night with four rebounds.
Kelsey Ernst powered Clarke with a double-double, recording game-highs with 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead her team to a 43-37 advantage on the boards. The 5-foot-11 forward shot 66.7 percent, connecting on 10-of-15 attempts from the floor as she helped the Crusaders outscore the Warriors 48-30 in the paint.
Breland Prochaska aided Clarke’s balanced attack with 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a game-high five steals. Kea Whittington poured in 14 points, secured seven rebounds and turned in a game-high six assists. Katelyn Hoppman also reached double figures with 13 points.
The Crusaders shot 46.3 percent, knocking down 31-of-67 attempts from the field and connecting on 4-of-13 (30.8 percent) shots from 3-point range. Waldorf finished 23-of-62 (37.1 percent) from the floor and 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) behind the arc.
Clarke went 64.7 percent from the free-throw line, converting on 11 of its 17 trips to the charity stripe. The Warriors sank 61.5 percent of their foul shots, going 8-of-13.
Disruptive defense keyed the Crusaders, who racked up 11 steals and forced Waldorf to commit 22 turnovers. Clarke, which turned the ball over 16 times, held a 22-20 edge in points off turnovers.
Fifteen offensive rebounds resulted in the Crusaders claiming a 15-8 advantage in second-chance points. The Warriors ended the game with 13 offensive boards.
Waldorf resumes the season on Saturday, taking on Ashford University (5-17) in a 2 p.m. tipoff at Clinton. It marks the second season meeting with the Saints, who escaped with a 74-67 win on Dec. 18 at Forest City.