UW-Whitewater head coach Keri Carollo cuts down the net after her team won the program’s sixth conference championship Wednesday. The victory also marked the 200th in Carollo’s career. — Daily Union photo by Josh Smith.
Amy Mandrell and Kaitlyn Thill (5) trap UW-Oshkosh guard Megan Wenig in the back court during UW-Whitewater’s58-49 WIAC win Wednesday. — Daily Union photo by Josh Smith.
By Josh Smith Union sports writer
WHITEWATER - The UW-Whitewater women's basketball team only missed two free throws Wednesday night, so it was odd to see Kaitlyn Thill's attempt in the final minute deflect off the rim.
But Cortney Kumerow was there to gather the offensive rebound, score on the putback and draw a foul. The three-point play iced the Warhawks' 58-49 win over UW-Oshkosh at Kachel Gym.
Additionally, the victory over the Titans clinched UW-W's sixth WIAC championship.
"It feels good to get that, but we're not done yet," Kumerow said after logging her second consecutive double-double.
UW-Whitewater (19-5 overall, 13-2 WIAC) mounted a 9-2 run to open the second half and take a brief two-point lead. But the remainder of the game went back-and-forth until the final 1:33 when the Warhawks scored 10 straight to cap the game.
Kumerow scored five points in that final stretch, including her key three-point play with 40 seconds remaining. She finished the night with 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Warhawks, who are ranked No. 24 nationally in the latest D3hoops.com Top 25 poll.
"That pretty much sealed it. That was the dagger, so to speak," said UW-W head coach Keri Carollo, who earned her 200th career victory Wednesday. "Great players make great plays, and she did. She stepped up when we needed her and she's been amazing these last few games. (She's) just really putting our team on her back - not only scoring, but playing great defense and getting bunches of rebounds."
UW-Oshkosh (19-5, 11-4) ended the first half on a 13-2 run to take a five-point lead into the break. The Titans' lead could have been bigger with UW-W shooting 24 percent, but 11 turnovers hindered UW-O.
In the second half, Whitewater ramped up the tempo.
"That's how our press is affective. It wears them out," Carollo said. "If we can press for a significant amount of time without getting ourselves in foul trouble, we knew it would wear them out and eventually shots would start to go wayward."
The Warhawks got to the line in the second half, and took advantage by sinking 15-of-16 attempts from the stripe. On the night, UW-W shot 21-of-23.
"When you're playing in tough games and crucial situations, free throws are so, so important," Carollo said.
Freshman Abbie Reeves shot 8-of-8 at the line to finish with 11 points. Thill chipped in eight and Megan Theune added seven.
Oshkosh got 17 points from Megan Wenig and 11 more from Katie Kitzke in the loss.
Along with the conference title, UW-Whitewater secured the No. 1 seed in the WIAC Tournament. The top seed gives the Warhawks a bye into the semifinals and home court advantage throughout the tourney.
The Warhawks will host the lowest remaining seed in a semifinal matchup Friday, Feb. 22.
"It definitely builds momentum. I'm so happy that we won conference, but I feel like there's more in it for us - that we're not even close to reaching all of our goals," said Carollo, who also guided UW-W to championships in 2008 and 2010. "This is just kind of the first step."
UW-Whitewater will conclude the regular season Saturday when UW-River Falls visits Kachel Gym. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. after the men's game concludes.
Carollo became the second coach in the UW-Whitewater women's basketball program to win 200 games. She is now 200-100 since taking the helm in 2002.
"It's a great accomplishment as a coach, but I don't really care about that stuff. I care about what these guys do, and I wanted this game more for them - winning a conference championship - than anything because I know how hard they've worked," Carollo said. "They're special."
Only Dianne Jones (229-103) has more wins than Carollo.
"We're proud to be a part of it," Kumerow said of her coach's achievement. "We're happy that it happened to be this game too - the conference championship, 200th win so it was a good game. Definitely one of the books."