A lot rides on this weekend for Augustana Women’s Basketball.
Augustana (20-9, 12-8 NSIC) ends its regular season with a pair of home bouts in the Elmen Center, one against neighborhood rival University of Sioux Falls (19-7, 14-6 NSIC) at 5:30 p.m. tonight and another against Southwest Minnesota State University (12-13, 9-11 NSIC) at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The two games will determine how the team will seed in the NSIC Tournament and will paint a picture for the rest of the season.
“It’s always fun to play against USF, but apart from the rivalry, we need the win,” senior center Shelby Selland said. “It’s a really big game.”
Augustana and USF could tie for No. 2 in the NSIC South if Augustana has a flawless weekend and if USF drops its two games. However, if Augustana loses both games and Winona State University wins its two, Augustana could seed No. 4 in the South.
Unfortunately, Augustana lost against both SMSU and USF earlier this season, though both games were close losses.
Last time Augustana faced SMSU on Jan. 4, it was a game changer, junior guard Hana Metoxen said. Early in the first quarter, Selland tore one of her ACLs on a fast break. Jostled, the Vikings lost 74-71. On Jan. 5, the night after Selland’s injury, USF defeated Augustana 65-60.
Metoxen said losing Selland was like tearing a gear out of a machine in motion.
“We had to learn how to work together again and how to get things flowing again,” Metoxen said.
Luckily, Selland is back on the court. After her injury, Selland said she began strengthening her glutes and hamstrings for six hours every day to take pressure off her knee so she could stay in for her final season.
“I knew in my heart that if I didn’t at least try to come back that I would regret it for a really long time,” Selland said. “Now I can say that I tried.”
She had her first showing since her injury on Feb. 9 in the senior night game against St. Cloud State.
Senior guard Abby Hora said she isn’t as worried for the weekend with Selland back, but she knows it will be competitive.
“USF is playing its best basketball now,” Hora said. “If you’re worried, then that’s just bad basketball mentality. We have to come in with intensity.”
Senior guard Lynsey Prosser said the team needs to buckle down and take what it can get from the remainder of the regular season.
“We just have to make the best of it and remind everyone of our goals,” Prosser said.
The team comes into this weekend off of its last final regular-season road series that began with a late-game 77-69 win against Minnesota State University, Mankato (12-13, 9-11 NSIC) on Feb. 15.
The Mavericks entered the game sporting a four-game win streak that started with a 76-70 upset in January against Minnesota State University, Moorhead (21-5, 17-3 NSIC), No. 1 in the NSIC North.
The Vikings entered on a three-game losing streak that started with a loss 68-62 to University of Mary in early February.
The Vikings trailed the Mavericks for most of the game until they took a 46-44 lead with 1:56 left in the third quarter after an 11-2 run. Augustana shutdown Minnesota State in the third, allowing them only five points in the third.
Augustana stretched its lead to 12 points in the fourth, but Minnesota State netted two last-minute layups to close the game 77-69.
Senior guard Lynsey Prosser led the team in scoring with 26 points, going 9-25 inside the arc and snagging three steals in 37 minutes of play. Selland and freshman guard Vishe’ Rabb also broke double-digit scoring, finishing with 13 and 10 points respectively.
Overall, Augustana shot 44 percent (30-68) from the field and 31 percent (8-26) from beyond the arc but missed seven free throws in the process.
The win was Augustana’s 20th victory of the season and marked the fifth straight season the team has won 20 or more games.
Augustana closed its conference road schedule with a 69-61 loss to Concordia-St. Paul (19-6., 15-5 NSIC), the No. 1 team in the NSIC South.
After trailing in the first quarter, the Vikings seized a small lead early in the second. The lead bounced between the Vikings and the Golden Bears eight times in the second quarter and early in the third, but Concordia ended the third quarter up by seven points.
With 1:59 left in the fourth, a 3-pointer from junior guard Hana Metoxen shaved the deficit to two points, but Concordia answered back with a field goal and six points from the charity stripe to end the game up by eight.
Three Vikings scored double digits on the night. Prosser again led the team in scoring with 21 points, followed by 10 points from both Selland and junior guard Danni Honner.
As a team, the Vikings shot 30 percent (19-63) from the field and a dismal 10 percent (3-28) from outside the three-point line and missed only four free throws.
On Wednesday, Feb. 27, the team will show at the NSIC Tournament First Round game at 5:30 p.m. at the Sioux Falls Arena. Its opponent has yet to be announced.
If the Vikings lose, their season is over. If they win, they will move onto the NSIC Quarterfinals on March 2 at the Sanford Pentagon.
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