COLUMBIA — Without looking at the scoreboard, it would be hard to guess the Columbia College women's basketball team held a double-digit lead for most of its game Friday night.
Each whistle was greeted with jeers and one opposing fan was ejected from the arena in the Cougars 87-63 win over Park University that moves them on to the American Midwest Conference championship game.
Although there were moments when it seemed the Cougars might lose their composure, particularly after sophomore Ashley Fisher took a hard elbow to the throat, the team was able to run away with the game. Columbia College was led by junior Julie Teeple's 21 points. Sophomore Heather English scored 17 and Fisher chipped in 16.
Cougars coach Mike Davis said the hostility was a product of the high stakes.
"That was Park's only hope to continue on," he said. "They had to win the tournament. If you're a competitor, you're not going to give up easily."
Davis worked throughout the game to keep his players under control.
"Just about every timeout, coach was like, 'keep your composure, make sure we aren't fighting back if we make a mistake and start saying stuff,'" Fisher said.
Columbia College frustrated the Pirates by taking charges throughout the night.
Park's hopes of a comeback were largely dashed after they began the second half with 10 fouls to Columbia's one. The Pirates' greatest threat was 6-foot-7 freshman Danila Fabbri, who scored 15 points. Although Columbia College usually has a hard time guarding tall players in the post, Fabbri committed three fast fouls that limited her playing time.
Park had previously handed the Cougars their most lopsided loss of the year in the teams' last meeting on Feb. 4.
Columbia College will face rival William Woods University on Monday night for the AMC title. The teams split their season series, with Columbia College taking the most recent match on the road Feb. 11.
The game will tip off at 7 p.m. at the Arena of the Southwell Complex.