Women’s basketball team bounds into conference tournament

by Abbie CraneStaff Writer

Team chemistry bonded Simpson’s young women’s basketball team and made it into the powerhouse it was throughout the season.

At 20-5, the team was 12-4 within the conference. The team advanced to conference play with a win, 77-56, over the University of Dubuque on Feb. 17.

Junior Katelyn Whiton led the Storm against Dubuque with 24 points. In the first half, she had a rebound put-back that made her the 12th player in Simpson’s history of women’s basketball history to score 1,000 career points.

Whiton has started in all 25 games this season and leads the team with an average of 15.5 points per game.

The team set goals at the beginning of the season, and according to Whiton, they have successfully accomplished most of their goals, other than winning the conference.

“I had the same personal goals as the team’s goals,” Whiton said. “Though we lost a few games we shouldn’t have and we didn’t make our goal of conference champions, we still made most of (our goals).”

With only four upperclassmen (senior Tessa Van Oosbree and juniors Whiton, Ashley Katch and Carlie Beals), the team is composed of mostly younger players. With eight sophomores and three freshmen on the varsity team, there is a lot of room for younger players to gain experience.

“You can’t buy experience,” Head Coach Brian Niemuth said. “You just have to go through it.”

Sophomore Laura Montague leads the team with 97 assists this season and is second in minutes played with 626 minutes behind Whiton’s 653 minutes.

Montague said the upperclassmen have really led the team to the success they’ve had this year. She said she feels the team has done really well considering the small number of upperclassmen.

“The upperclassmen have shown good leadership and carried us along,” Montague said.

Whiton said she thinks their success is a direct result of how hard they’ve worked this year.

“Everyone played as hard as they could,” Whiton said. “We did really well with such a young team. We’ve shown how strong we can be and how hard we’ve worked.”

The upperclassmen show a lot of leadership by leading the team both on and off the court. Whiton and Katch both have field goal percentages of above 50 percent and Beals is just below 50 percent.

Katch also leads the team with 203 rebounds this season along with her well-documented, nation-leading stat of five blocks per game.

The first round of the tournament was Feb. 20, and the Storm played Coe in Indianola. The second round is Feb. 22, and finals are Feb. 24.

The team’s goal from the beginning of the season has been to return to the NCAA national tournament by winning the conference tournament.

“We hope to win the conference tournament and if not hopefully we have enough wins to make it to the national tournament,” Montague said. “We’re taking it one game at a time right now.”

Niemuth said even if the team doesn’t win the conference tournament there is still a chance it could make it to the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid because of the win-loss record, but he would prefer to win the tournament outright and assure they make it to the NCAA tournament.