The other six conference victories may have been blowouts. But this was a statement.
The Columbia College women’s basketball team defeated McKendree (Ill.) College 113-81 on Tuesday night to gain sole possession of first place in the American Midwest Conference.
Both Columbia College and McKendree were undefeated in conference play going into the game, and with a tradition of rivalry between the two schools, both teams anticipated an exciting game.
“Our whole team was really up for this game,” Columbia College senior Lisa Kowalewski said. “There were butterflies, there was excitement; we’d been talking about it all day.”
The result was a fired up Cougars team that excelled in all areas of the game. In the first half, the Cougars shot 73.5 percent from the field, making 57 percent of their 3-pointers.
Kowalewski led the charge, shooting 9-of-10 from the floor in the half, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. She said it felt good to finally hit the 3s after struggling most of last semester to find her range behind the arc.
“It was like there was a string from the ball to the basket,” Kowalewski said. “(The ball) just followed that string and went in.”
Although Kowalewski did not shoot quite as well in the second half, she added 12 more points to finish with 34 on the night. She is two points away from the Columbia Cougar’s all-time basketball scoring record, which is currently held by Mike Kiehne.
Columbia College coach Mike Davis said he thought Kowalewski shot the ball wonderfully.
“She’s a shooter, you know, she is,” Davis said. “When someone like that gets a couple of open looks, all of a sudden the sudden the basket gets pretty big for them.”
Senior Tiffany Foote was another first-half spark for the Cougars. The point guard made all four of her shots, including both of her 3-point attempts. She added six first-half assists and had one turnover.
“I just try to find the open man; who’s ever open, get it there,” Foote said.
Davis said he thought Foote did a great job on the perimeter setting things up for the Cougars.
Forward LeAnn Fossum answered the call at the start of the second half, hitting a 3-pointer in the corner to open the scoring.
McKendree’s Allie Arppe answered on the next trip down the floor, but Fossum scored the next two field goals to make it 67-40. She scored 14 in the half, adding six rebounds and four assists.
Fossum’s fellow forward, senior Mindy Mitchem, fired up the crowd with four big blocks on the night. She also controlled the boards with 13 rebounds, including nine in the second half. Her effort contributed to a rebounding advantage of 45-32 for Columbia College.
“We limited their second chances and really cleared some boards out of there,” Davis said.
Davis said those rebounds allowed Columbia College to run the fast break. The up-tempo style favored the Cougars, who scored 56 points off fast breaks. Freshman reserve Mandy Jorgenson’s six points were all from fast-break layups.
With the defeat of McKendree, the Cougars are 20-5 on the season and 6-0 in the conference. They will face Hannibal LaGrange College on Saturday at 2 p.m., and Davis said that he hopes his team can maintain the high level it exhibited during Tuesday’s game.
“A lot of teams play at high levels for short periods of time, but good teams play that way for a long time,” Davis said.