Blue Jays Headed to SLIAC Championship Game After Second Half Comeback

32-Abby Nichols
21-Makayla Jackson
15-Reese Arnold
31-Powel-Qualo 32-Abby Nichols 21-Makayla Jackson 15-Reese Arnold

Fulton, Mo., April 9, 2021 – The Westminster College Blue Jays women's basketball team was one win away from a trip to the SLIAC Tournament Championship game. With 6:59 left to play in the third quarter it didn't look good for the Blue Jays as they were down 51-36 to the Greenville University Panthers.  The Blue Jays would storm back to tie it and send the game to overtime where they would complete the comeback in a thrilling 86-82 OT win!

The first half saw the Panthers take and maintain a lead for most of the first half. In the closing moments of the second quarter the Panthers hit a three that gave them their biggest lead of the half at 40-29.  The Blue Jays would get a boost as Avylina Powel-Qualo would find Shelby Kurtz who would knock down a big three that cut the lead back to eight 40-32 and gave the Jays some momentum heading into the half.

The third quarter started with the Panthers making their run to push their lead to 15 before the Blue Jays would make their comeback after a timeout the Blue Jays would go on a 10-0 run.  Five quick points from the freshman Kurtz cut the lead to 51-41.  The run continued as Powel-Qualo would find Abbie Reece who would knock down a three to make it 51-44.  A little later Powel-Qualo would sky for an offensive rebound and was fould as she attempted the put back.  She would step to the free throw and knock down both shots to make it 51-46. Another stop by the Jays resulted in a driving lay-up by Powel-Qualo that made it 51-48. prompting Greenville to call a timeout. After a Panther made field goal made it 53-48 the Blue Jays would respond when Kurtz hit Abby Nichols with a pass for a lay-up and after a stop Powel-Qualo would score yet again and all of a sudden the Jays were back within 1. A 16-2 run that spanned 4:48 and the Blue Jays were back in the game.  The teams would trade baskets but the Jays just couldn't take the lead as the third quarter came to an end with Greenville leading 57-54.

The fourth quarter saw the two teams trade baskets.  A Kurtz three would cut the lead to two at 59-57 with 8:43 to play in regulation.  A Nichols offensive rebound put back with 7:24 left cut the lead again to two at 61-59 but the Jays just couldn't take the lead.  That is until the 6:51 mark when Powel-Qualo found freshman Chloe Akerson at the top of the key where she would drill the three pointer that put the Blue Jays back in front 62-61, their first lead since early in the second quarter.  Greenville would not go away however and fought back into the lead. With the Panthers back up five the Jays Madison Schaeffer, who was saddled with foul trouble all night, would score on back to back possessions to get back to within one at 67-66 with 2:27 left to play.  Down three with :46 to play Powel-Qualo scored to get the Jays to within one.  A huge defensive stop by the Blue Jays would give them the ball with seconds left and a chance to win the game. Powel-Qualo would be fouled on a shot at the rim and she would knock down one out of two shots to tie the game at 69-69 and send the game into overtime.

The overtime would see the Blue Jays take a five-point lead 78-73 on a three pointer by Reese Arnold. Greenville responded with a three of their own to make it 78-76  and then tie it at 78 all with just over one minute to go in the game. The difference would come at the free throw line.  The Jays went 8-8 from the free throw line while the Panthers would go 4-8 and the Blue Jays would prevail 86-82. The win advances the Blue Jays to the championship game Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. in St. Louis, Mo at the #1 seeded Webster University Gorloks.

The Blue Jays were led by Powel-Qualo with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Kurtz recorded a career high 21 points to go with 5 rebounds. Schaeffer scored 11 and Arnold chipped in 10 to round out the double figure scorers for the Blue Jays.  Abby Nichols coming off of her first college double-double followed that up with a career high 17 rebounds tonight to go with 8 points.  The 17 rebounds in a single game is tied for the fourth most rebounds in women's basketball history. 

The Blue Jays outrebounded the Panthers 43-37.  Greenville held the advantage in the paint 46-32 but the Blue Jays balanced that by going 10-28 from three point range compared to 5-19 from Greenville.  The Blue Jays also shot a sizzling 20-22 from the free throw line including a perfect 12-12 in overtime.

The Blue Jays will travel to Webster University Saturday night to take on the #1 seeded Gorloks for the SLIAC Tournament Championship. The game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. tip off.  The game can be watched online HERE.