LEBANON, ILL. — After the championship game of the American Midwest Conference Tournament, both teams were in tears.
For McKendree, those tears were tears of joy. For Columbia College, they were tears of disappointment.
McKendree used a balanced offensive effort and strong interior play to beat the Columbia College women’s basketball team 78-66 on Saturday , ending the Cougars’ season. The Cougars finished 17-14, including tournament play.
“That’s one that hurt them,” coach Mike Davis said. “It’s one that also will make you stronger and work harder for things in the future.”
McKendree had five players in double figures and dominated inside. McKendree scored 34 points in the paint, while Columbia College finished with 18.
The Cougars struggled to score the ball from everywhere on the court, shooting poorly from the field, the three point line, and the foul line.
“I couldn’t get the ball to go in,” forward Rachel Oswald said, choking back her tears. “I just couldn’t hit a shot. I don’t really know what to say.”
McKendree used its size advantage over the Cougars to pull down 12 offensive rebounds in the first half. The team then capitalized on those second chances to take a 6 point lead into the break.
The final two minutes of the first half proved to be one of the decisive moments of the game. Columbia College had the lead by one with two minutes to play, but McKendree finished the half on a 9-2 run.
Columbia College improved its rebounding in the second half, but could not close the scoring gap.
“That was huge, points in the paint and offensive rebounds,” Davis said. “We battled back the second half, but you had already dug yourself a hole.”
The loss brought the career of Megan Archuleta, Columbia College’s only senior, to a close. Archuleta was the Cougars’ second leading scorer this season, averaging over 12 points per game. In Archuleta’s two seasons with the Cougars, they won 43 games and advanced to the AMC Tournament championship game the past two seasons.
Despite losing Archuleta, a group that averaged about 60 points per game from this year’s team will return next season. The Cougars averaged about 73 points per game this season.
“I have no doubt that they will be back next year, and they’ll be at the national tournament and make a big impact,” Archuleta said, fighting back tears of her own.
Sophomores Oswald and Whitney Davis were named First Team All-Conference at a ceremony after the game. Sophomore Whitney Widaman received an honorable mention.
Oswald was also named as the conference’s Newcomer of the Year after transferring to Columbia College from MU. Oswald said the awards were bittersweet because of the loss.