Menlo Women’s Basketball Secures Top 8 National Finish

Menlo Women’s Basketball Secures Top 8 National Finish

The Women’s Basketball team made it all the way to the quarterfinals in the March 2018 D1 NAIA tournament for the first time in program history. The historic season for the Oaks wrapped up with a record of 23-9, and a standing as the 6th best team in the nation.

Playing in the quarterfinals in the NAIA tournament for the first time in program history, there was a lot on the line for Menlo College Women’s Basketball. Taking on a four-seed in the tournament and #14 rank in the nation, University of Montana Western, there was certainly a large contingency of fans from their home state cheering the Bulldogs on. Menlo and Montana Western put on a show for 40 minutes, but ultimately the Bulldogs came out as the top dog and ended the historic season for the Oaks. With a final of 74-61, the 2017-18 season ends for the Oaks with a record of 23-9, while the Bulldogs have clinched a spot in the NAIA semifinals.

All Hail the King

The obviously storyline of the quarterfinals match was how Brianna King performed for the Bulldogs. Her stat line for the night was absolutely ridiculous:40 (yes, 40) points on 9-21 shooting, 4-9 from distance, 8 rebounds, and 18-18 from the free throw line. She certainly did a bulk of her damage from the charity stripe, but her shots from three-point range helped bury the Oaks periodically. King is the leading scorer for the Bulldogs and the only Bulldog to average more than ten points per game. Her career-night in the biggest stage helped set the tone offensively for the Bulldogs, a team that didn’t have much rhythm all game.

Paw Patrol

Menlo trailed by 13 at halftime but started surging early in the second half and made a game of it, putting a little fear into the Bulldogs. Alexis Delovio got the party started for the Oaks by knocking down a three-pointer, and she scored the first seven points of a Menlo College 13-4 run. Ashlyn Monk and Celina Pagan capped off that run with three-pointers as the Oaks suddenly found their stroke from outside the arc, and the game became 49-45 in favor of the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs came right back to end the quarter on a 9-2 run and led 58-49 after three, taking some wind out of the Oaks sails.

Throw the Dogs a Bone

There were several glaring statistics from this tournament-elimination game that stand out, but two stand out above the rest: fouls and turnovers. The Oaks committed 23 fouls in the game and turned the ball over 18 times. This led to an incredible 30 free throws for the Bulldogs, who made 28 of those. The Oaks were solid from the line too, making 13-14, but Menlo lost the game by 13 while making 15 fewer free throws. Do the math.

Going Out with a Splash

Celina Pagan played her final game as an Oak and went out with another solid performance like she has so many times over the course of her Menlo career. She finished 6-12 from the field and 3-6 from deep, adding up to 19 points with six rebounds and an assist. She led all Menlo scorers in the game, while Ailyah Brantley added 12, and Alexis Delovio and Madison Michelis pitched in with nine. Michelis was one point shy of another double-double, ending with 11 rebounds.

Among Other Numbers

Menlo outshot the Bulldogs in their season finale, holding Montana Western to just 33.9% shooting but the Oaks only shot 35% on their own side. Menlo held the rebound advantage 45-33, and on the offensive glass 13-6. Britt Cooper ended with the only double-double for the Bulldogs, going for 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Oaks did not receive much production from their bench, with Destinee Bowie, Jessica Rogers, Anya Gamez, and Madison Rocha combining for just nine points on 4-9 shooting.

What a Season

The Oaks wrap up the season with their best mark since the 2013-14 season when Menlo went 25-6 and won the Cal Pac title. As mentioned many times before, this marks the furthest the Oaks have ever advanced in any NAIA tournament in any sport. The Bulldogs, like the Oaks, were fighting for their first-ever semifinal berth, which is played on Monday in Billings. The turnaround for Menlo in 2017-18 is remarkable, given they finished at just 10-19 one season ago. The Oaks finish with the third-best field goal percentage in the nation and the ninth best scoring offense in the NAIA.