Golden Suns’ Season Ends in NCAA 1st Round

Northern State University used an 18-2 run in the fourth quarter to come from behind and defeat Arkansas Tech University 76-65 in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament Central Regional at the Elmen Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Friday night.

With the win, Northern State (26-5) advances to face top-seeded and nationally seventh-ranked Augustana University (28-3) on the Vikings’ home floor at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night in the regional semifinals.

The loss ended the 41st season of intercollegiate women’s basketball at Arkansas Tech. The Golden Suns finished the season 26-4 with a Great American Conference Tournament championship and fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth to their credit.

“Our players played extremely hard and battled all night,” said Dave Wilbers, who completed his 11th season as ATU head coach. “We got into foul trouble. It was a physical game that was called tight. Northern State has some awfully good post players, and we got out of our flow offensively in the fourth quarter. This was a really good season. The girls got along, and we improved as the season unfolded. Arkansas Tech can be proud of this team.”

The Golden Suns led 21-14 after one quarter, 43-34 at halftime and 58-54 after three periods.

Tech missed 17 of its first 19 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Wolves took their first lead of the night at 63-61 on a Miranda Ristau 3-point play at the 5:53 mark. By the time Northern State’s decisive 18-2 run was over with 55 seconds left, it led 76-63.

Ristau finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season. Jill Conrad added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Wolves. Jessi Marti notched 14 points and six rebounds.

Northern State out-rebounded the Golden Suns 48-32. The Wolves scored 11 of their 14 second-chance points after halftime.

Lyrik Williams led Tech in scoring with 17 points. Jayana Sanders finished with 12 points. Kylie Ladd, who fouled out on a video replay review with 3:23 remaining, had 11 points and five rebounds.

Cheyenne North had 11 points, eight assists and nine blocked shots for the Suns in her final collegiate game. North matched her career high in blocked shots. She and McKenzie Morris were the only seniors on the 2017-18 Arkansas Tech women’s basketball team.

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