Marion, Ind. – For the sixth straight season, the Marian women’s basketball team has earned the Crossroads League Regular Season Championship, doing so to the tune of a 72-54 win over No. 16 Indiana Wesleyan on Wednesday night. The Knights dominated the second quarter to take a 17-point lead by halftime, and led by as many as 26 in the fourth quarter as the visiting Knights claimed their 16th straight win. Marian improves to 22-4 with the win, cliching the league title with their 14th Crossroads League win of the season.
Marian got off to a near perfect start on offense, scoring on three of their first five possessions which included a pair of two three-pointers. Marian’s hot start carried into the sixth minute of the game, with Macy Willoughby‘s second three-pointer of the quarter backing the Wildcats into a timeout, with Marian on top 11-2. Indiana Wesleyan fought back after falling behind by nine, as a couple of quick baskets brought the home team back within five points, but Marian surged back ahead in the likes of Kinnidy Garrard. The sophomore scored with four seconds remaining in the quarter, and after a lazy inbounds pass, Abby Downard picked up a steal and a last second jumper to give Marian a 17-9 lead after one quarter.
As they have done throughout their 16-game win streak, Marian dominated the second quarter, out-scoring Indiana Wesleyan 19-10 in the quarter. The quarter started with a 9-1 run over the first three minutes, which forced the home team into another timeout as Marian grew a 16-point lead. The lead continued to swell for Marian, as it grew over 20-points in the final two minutes thanks to back to back jumpers from Downard with 1:46 remaining in the half. The Wildcats picked up the final four points of the half following the Downard points, but Marian’s 51.7 percent shooting performance from the field in the half gave the Knights a 36-19 lead.
The Knights continued to attack the Wildcats in the third quarter, repeating their early second quarter success with an 11-4 run in the first 3:45 helping Marian take a 24-point lead. The defense continued to pressure Indiana Wesleyan throughout the run, and continued to disrupt the shooting rhythm as the home team was held to under 39 percent from the floor through the early parts of the third quarter. IWU made a late push as the quarter wound to a close, drawing within 16 points at the end of the quarter as Marian led 53-37.
Looking for a push to seal the game, Marian went back to Willoughby at the start of the fourth, and the senior delivered with a 5-0 run in the first 80 seconds of the final period to increase the lead to 21. With the five quick points Willoughby moved to No. 8 on the All-Time Scoring List at Marian, and started a trend of scores from Imani Guy and Garrard over the next four minutes as the duo scored on multiple possessions to push the lead over 26 points. With a commanding lead at hand, the Knights rotated in their reserves in the final minutes, and coasted to their 72-54 win, claiming the sixth consecutive Crossroads League Regular Season Championship.
“We just came out and competed today,” said head coach Katie Gearlds. “Defensively I thought we were really special, just locked in and engaged all night. We played really, really hard, and that led to a great team win. Everyone 1-through-12 did their part today.”
“We are going to enjoy this moment today but we want to keep pushing to get better every day. The jobs not finished.” said Gearlds on winning her sixth Crossroads League Regular Season Championship.
Marian was led offensively by Willoughby, who finished with 16 points and made four three-pointers. Guy scored 14 points in the win, while Garrard scored 12 points off the bench. Downard picked up seven points and a game-high seven assists, and Shanyce Makuei scored nine points off the bench.
The Knights held Indiana Wesleyan to 38 percent from the field on the game, and didn’t allow a made three from the Wildcats until late in the fourth quarter.
Marian will return home on Saturday for the second to last game of the regular season as they host Huntington University at 1:00 PM.