Fulton, Mo 2/21/2023- The 2023 SLIAC Women's Basketball Tournament kicked off Tuesday night as the #3 seeded Westminster College Blue Jays hosted the #6 seeded Eureka College Red Devils with the winner advancing to the semi-finals on Thursday. The Blue Jays exploded for 23 points in the first quarter and would roll to victory, defeating Eureka 73-60. The Red Devils end their season with a record of 8-19 overall and 5-9 in the SLIAC. The Blue Jays move on to the semi-final round, where they will face off against Greenville University in the semi-finals hosted at Webster University.
The Red Devils jumped on the Blue Jays in the early moments, taking an 11-3 lead in the opening minutes. Westminster would then catch fire that started with a three-pointer from their senior guard Shelby Kurtz (Camdenton, MO/Camdenton). Annette Ramirez (Sarcoxie, MO/ Sarcoxie) would get to the free-throw line on back-to-back possessions. She would make all four free throws. Then Oliva Hixson (Neosho, MO / Neosho) would hit a three to put the Blue Jays down one at 14-13 with 4:17 remaining in the opening quarter. Kurtz would get to the free throw line and knock down two free throws to give the Jays their first lead of the game at 15-14. Westminster ended the quarter on a 13-0 run and had the lead 23-14.
Ramirez would get fouled shooting a three-pointer to start the second quarter. She would make all three free throws to give her team a 26-14 lead. Eureka would mount a comeback and cut into the Blue Jay lead right before the half. They would score a basket in the final fifteen seconds and went to the locker room, trailing 37-32, cutting the Westminster lead from fourteen to just five points. The Red Devils would outscore the Blue Jays 18-14.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair with either team not giving an inch. The Blue Jays would pull away, the Red Devils would respond and come right back. The quarter ended up being even with each team scoring eighteen points in the quarter. The Blue Jays ended the third quarter with the same five-point lead they had coming into it. Eureka would hit a three and another basket in the last minute to make it 55-50.
The Blue Jays would put the game away midway through the fourth quarter with a steal by Kurtz that led to a three-pointer from Ramirez that put Westminster up 69-56. The Blue Jays would extend their lead to a game-high seventeen points. They would win the game 73-60 and advance to the conference tournament semifinals.
Westminster was led offensively by Ramirez, who had 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. She was 9-10 from the free throw line. Kurtz had 14 points in her last game inside the Historic Gym. She would grab 3 rebounds and had 2 steals in the game as well. Natalie Archambault (Eureka, MO/-) had 11 points and hauled in 6 rebounds. Chloe Akerson (Saint Louis, Mo. / Lutheran South) and Hixson both had 8 points off the bench.
The Blue Jays will be back in action on Thursday as they will take on the Greenville University Panthers in the SLIAC Tournament Semifinals. That game will tip off at 5:30 PM and will be held at Webster University, which is hosting the rest of the tournament.