Megan Storjohann had a "four-midable" game for the St. Ambrose University Queen Bees in their opening victory in the 20th annual State Farm-NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday evening.|
The junior center logged four points, four rebounds and four assists, but it was her ferocious defense on Mount Vernon Nazarene's top offensive threat that paced the Queen Bees to a 73-56 opening-round victory at the Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena. In fact, Storjohann's defense spurred the entire team, which held the Lady Cougars to 27 percent shooting (21 of 79) for the game and made the outcome all but a forgone conclusion after the first 11 minutes.
The victory moves the Queen Bees (29-4, ranked No. 10 nationally) into Friday's Sweet 16 contest opposite Indiana Wesleyan (28-5), which finished the regular season ranked No. 7. IWU, which held on for a 57-55 victory over Cornerstone (Mich.), is the second-seed in the eight-team bracket, and SAU is the No. 3 seed. Friday's game is at 3:30 p.m.
It marked the 15th time in 16 trips to Nationals that the Queen Bees have won their opener as they now sport a 15-15 record at the national tournament.
And on Wednesday, they did it by leaving little doubt on either end of the court.
Former Alleman and Black Hawk standout Mollie Yeargle hit all three of her 3-pointers in the first 11 minutes of the game, which helped SAU explode to a 27-5 lead. Ali Dolphin popped for six points in that early spree while Kayla Sanborn, Shelly Charvat and Megan Cash also added buckets.
Dolphin (14 rebounds) and Yeargle led SAU with 15 points each, and Annie Smith added 11 as 10 Queen Bees scored and all 14 players got in the game.
Getting contributions from everyone was key, especially on defense, as SAU's lead dipped under double-digits for just over a minute early in the second half.
"It was huge," said Krista Van Hauen, first-year SAU coach, of the impressive beginning. "We came out and jumped off to the good start. Our defense was there, and we got some cushion and momentum. Our girls came out with guns blazing and never looked back."
Storjohann, Smith and Mary Burmeister drew the assignment on MVNU center Amanda Himes. Averaging 18.3 points and 11.8 rebounds, the senior was held to a team-best 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting. She did grab 16 rebounds.
Storjohann took her defensive effort in stride and passed out plenty of praise for the help the guards did digging down for double-teams.
"We have such a strong post presence in our conference that it made this game just like any other game we've played," said the junior starting center. "We watched film on her and saw that she really liked turning over her left shoulder, and we keyed on that. In the first half (when Himes missed her first five shots and was 1-for-7), we really shut her down."
Van Hauen was ecstatic with the defense that really kick-started her club's national's trip.
"We held every one of their players who was averaging double-figures to less than their averages," she said. "That's why we held them to 20 points under their average."
Sierra Fletcher added 13 points for the Lady Cougars.