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WHEATON, Ill. - A decisive run late in the second half was the difference as the Lakeland College women's basketball team fell 48-41 to Maryville, Mo., in the first round of the NCAA Division III Basketball Tournament here Friday night.
A pair of Brenda Paulson free throws brought the Muskies, who finish the year 21-8, within two at 40-38 with 4:09 to play.
But 23rd-ranked Maryville, which improves to 24-4 thanks to its 19th straight win this season, went on an 8-0 run over the next two minutes, and grabbed the only double-digit lead of the game, 48-38, with 2:17 to play.
"Take those two minutes out, and maybe the result would have been different," said Lakeland head coach April Arvan. "We ran out of gas, and we ran out of time. We needed the game to be about 4 minutes shorter."
The game was tied at 18 at the half as Maryville, which finished 30 points under its scoring average (77 points per game), shot just 22 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
But the Muskies, the nation's second-best defensive team, shot just 27 percent in the second half, and finished the game with 26 turnovers thanks in large part to the Saints' stifling, relentless full-court pressure.
"Those were good looks, they just did not fall," Arvan said. "That's been the tale for us all season - sometimes the shots drop, and sometimes they don't. I don't think it was fatigue. We've been playing some kids 40 minutes all season and they're used to that."
Maryville hounded Lakeland senior point guard Kristi Thill, who finished with six points on 1-of-11 shooting. Sophomore Jenna Boehm led all scorers with 15 points, the Muskies' only player in double digits.
"We knew they were going to get all over (Thill)," Arvan said. "To take Kristi out of the game it's like taking our pulse away. But what I was impressed with was our entire team battled. They were tough on Kristi, but our supporting cast fought hard.
"That style is so foreign to us, it's difficult for us as a staff to replicate that. We had a week to prepare, but nothing we did in practice compared to what they did to us."
It's the first NCAA Tournament win for Maryville's program, while the Muskies, who won the rebound battle 43-33, drop to 1-5 in NCAA play.
"The puffy eyes you see now are not because we lost," Arvan said. "That's a bit of a stinger because we're competitors. We're going to miss each other tremendously. It's going to take time to recover from the fact that we're not going to see each other every day."