NEW ULM, Minn - Trailing by ten heading into the fourth and final quarter, the North Central University women's basketball team demonstrated tremendous resolve to come from behind in one of the hilight wins of the season. NCU (7-12, 3-9 UMAC) outscored Martin Luther College (5-16, 3-9 UMAC) 25-14 in the fourth quarter to pick up a conference win on the road.
NCU would fall behind early as the Knights jumped out to a seven point lead at the end of the first quarter. The Rams would shoot just 31.6 percent from the field in the first as they went 6-for-19 to start the game. Martin Luther would take a six point lead into the half.
In the second half Allison Bulthuis would pace the Rams in the third quarter as she recorded nine points. To begin the fourth quarter the Rams would cut into the lead quickly as they would go on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 57-55 with 7:48 remaining in regulation. Martin Luther responded and the two teams continued to go back and forth over as MLC extended their lead to a five point advantage with 5:31 remaining in regulation after a layup from Crystal Carmichael.
The final five minutes would prove to be the most dramatic as NCU would cut into the lead, only to have Martin Luther respond. An Allison Bulthuis layup made it 63-61 in favor of Martin Luther. Twenty seconds later, Emily Witkowski nailed a three-point basket for the Knights to extend the lead to 66-61 with just over three minutes left in regulation. Grace Shultz added another bucket to push the lead to 68-61 in favor of MLC with 2:46 remaining. The game seemed all but out of reach at this point, but that was before the Rams began to surge.
Senior Lizzy Swanson has had no shortage of outstanding performances in a Ram uniform. The former East Central high school standout recorded seven points in a little over a minute of play to bring the Rams within one point at 68-67. As Swanson continued to cut into the lead on the offensive end, the Rams produced the stops that were needed on the defensive front.
With under one minute to play, Allison Bulthius was sent to the free throw line after a foul. After missing the first, she made the second to tie the game at 68-68 with 0:54 remaining the regulation. Ellee Laws would seal the go ahead basket with 0:17 remaining in the game. The Rams led 70-68 with what would be an action packed 17 seconds remaining. A foul would send Bulthuis back to the line where she made both baskets to give the Rams a 72-69 advantage with 10 seconds left.
Needing just a foul free defensive stop to seal the victory, NCU inadvertently fouled Emily Witkowski as she was shooting from behind the arc as time expired. The officials confirmed that she was behind the arc at the time of the foul, sending Witkowski to the line to shoot three pressure packed attempts. Witkowski made the first to cut the lead to 72-70. She missed the second shot, and made the third to seal the victory for the Rams.
NCU will be back in action in a non-conference matchup on the road in North Dakota at Trinity Bible College on Friday night. Tipoff is slated to begin at 5:00 p.m.