How much success can one campus take? Plenty. Saturday was one of those red letter days for the Green Knights of St. Norbert College. In a span of hours, the men's and women's basketball teams captured Midwest Conference Tournament championships, women's hockey team moved on to the semifinals of the Northern Collegiate Hockey tournament and the men's hockey team advanced to the championship game of the NCHA tourney.
Leading if off was the sizzling hot men's basketball team. After coming from 17 points down in the MWC semifinal Friday against Carroll College to win 74-68, the Knights took on the run and gun bunch from Grinnell College in the title game Saturday afternoon. The Pioneers defeated Ripon in their semifinal game 122-115, burying a ridiculous 27 of 44 three point shots. The title game was more of the same and proved to be a nip-tuck affair. Tied at 86, St. Norbert scored the next 13 points and held the Pioneers without one. The 99-86 victory was the 22nd straight for the Knights, improved their overall record to 24-1 and most importantly, sealed the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national tournament. It's the 4th tourney appearance in the last five years under head coach Gary Grzesk. Even though St. Norbert could have likely earned an at large bid, Grzesk said the victory left nothing to chance and assured the Knights a trip to the dance:
Senior Brandon Gries led the Knights in the title game with 23 points, Andrew Schwoerer had 21, Austin Elliot pitched in with 18. Grinnell's hot shot guard from Black River Falls, Jack Taylor, who made national headlines by scoring 138 points himself in a game last year and 109 earlier this year, was held to 11. St. Norbert added a tournament championship to a resume that already includes the first perfect regular season in Midwest Conference history and a number five national ranking in the Division 3 on line poll. When it was over, the champs did some posing.
As for the ladies.... It was a much more challenging journey for head coach Connie Tilley, wrapping up her 37th year at the school. She eclipsed 600 career wins earlier in the season but the Green Knight gals needed a strong finish in the regular season to share the MWC title and gain the right to host the tournament. They made it pay off with a victory over Carroll in the semifinals and in the championship game, defeated Monmouth 69-60. The women played the tourney without their leading scorer, Lana Tomashek, who learned her injured knee wasn't able to hold up and would be in need of surgery. Her high school teammate, Morgan Heim, played for Tomashek and delivered a huge three point shot late in the title game as the Knights squandered a 15 point, second half lead. St. Norbert finished it off, earning Tilley her 11th NCAA tournament bid and possibly her most satisfying:
Freshman Brianny Byrne was the top scorer with 16 points, 7 came in an opening 11-0 blitz. Another freshman, Jill Kleiman from Kewaunee had 13 points and Heidi Van Sistine of De Pere scored 11. Heim would finish with 9 but the big basket dedicated to her fallen friend who won't be able to play in the big dance. The headline photo is of Heim cutting down the net at the Schuldes Sports Center. Here's Morgan with the rest of the championship team.
As for the hockey teams. The women shut out Marian College 7-0 to reach the semifinal round of the NCHA tournament. The men dominated Lake Forest 6-0 to move into the championship game. Both squads will play teams from the College of St. Scholastica next. If the women win, they'll move to the title game, for the men, a victory earns the three-time national champs another trip to the Division III Frozen Four. All things considered, not a bad weekend on the St. Norbert campus in De Pere.