Wildcats make national tournament debut

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Wildcats make national tournament debut

Story by Sara Bell, Editor

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The No. 12 Baker University women’s basketball team will make its first NAIA national tournament appearance at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Frankfort, Ky.

Baker will face the 23rd-ranked University of the Cumberlands Patriots, who made the national tournament for the 14th time in the program’s history. The Patriots received an at-large bid after posting a 19-10 record this season.

During a press conference hosted by the Baker University Athletic Department, head coach Ben Lister said although Cumberlands has more experience at the national level, history won’t impact this matchup.

“Wednesday morning is going to be about who can play better at 8:30 in the morning and who can execute better,” Lister said. “You can have two mindsets here. You can have the mindset that you’re happy to be here or you can have the mindset that you’re here to win.”

Junior Kyrstie Ehm leads the Wildcats during the postseason, averaging 22 points in the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament. The transition play of senior guards BriAnna Garza and Shea Shoemaker will also play a role as the Wildcats try to combat Cumberlands’ size. The Patriots have four players who are 6-foot or taller.

“Half-court-wise they are going to present some problems for us with their size and their strength,” Lister said. “They’ve played a lot of high-level teams so they’re not going to be unprepared for anything that we do as far as our talent and our ability.”

While Baker leads the Patriots in nearly every offensive category, Cumberlands has the highest free-throw percentage in the NAIA. Junior Brooke Forsythe anchors the Patriots, averaging more than 15 points, five rebounds and one block per game. The 6-foot-3-inch center ranks second in the NAIA in free throw percentage.

“They have a lot of veteran kids who are used to playing in this type of environment.” Lister said. “That’s going to be another factor that comes into play, so hopefully our girls can put that behind them and focus on what they need to and see it as another game.”