FULTON — Columbia College women's basketball fans roared as the final seconds ticked off the clock at Anderson Arena. With a 76-65 win over 22nd-ranked William Woods University Saturday, 15th-ranked Columbia College advanced to the NAIA Women's National Basketball Tournament.
The Cougars won the American Midwest Conference regular season Saturday. Columbia College (24-6) will host the American Midwest Conference tournament, which starts Wednesday at the Arena at the Southwell Complex. As ecstatic as the Cougars were, they also kept things in perspective, knowing they want an NAIA National Championship.
Cougars coach Mike Davis is glad his team does not have to travel for the conference tournament. However, he was more relieved to secure the bid to the national tournament than win the conference.
"That's a nice thing to have done with," Davis said. "But (there is) a lot of big basketball to play."
Junior Heather English led the Cougars in scoring with a 27 points and 11 rebounds.
English won her third AMC championship. Columbia College has won five straight AMC regular season titles dating back to the 2008-2009 season.
"We can put another banner up," English said, "that's one of our goals, but our next goal is nationals. Our goal is always to win a national championship, and we haven't done it yet."
English dominated the early part of the game. She scored 11 of the Cougars' first 16 points. With 9:29 left in the first half, she hit an NBA-range 3-pointer from the top of the arc to give the Cougars a 25-16 lead. With 2:12 remaining in the half, she hit another 3-pointer from a step further back.
English had 17 points at halftime. The Cougars led William Woods 36-29 at halftime.
William Woods kept the Cougars close in the second half. Both teams played sloppy basketball for much of the first half and most of the second half. The game was a defensive battle.
William Woods made a late run. With the Cougars leading 67-50, baskets by Olivia Storjohann, Blake French, and Katie Scherder brought the Owls within eight. However, English hit a contested 3-pointer to give the Cougars the momentum once again.
"It was a good team" Davis said. "William Woods wasn't going to give in to you. They were going to fight, kick, and scratch, and they don't lose a lot of games here."
English missed a basket while driving the lane with 9:03 left in the second half. She appeared to injure her ankle on the play.
English did not know the extent of her injury after the game.