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SNC women wrap up share of conference title

By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – With a conference title and an 11-game winning streak on the line, the St. Norbert women’s basketball team pulled away in the fourth quarter against Concordia
University Chicago on Feb. 11.
The Green Knights outscored the Cougars 24-8 in the final 10 minutes on their way to a 75-46 Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) victory at the Mulva Sports Center in De Pere.
The win gave St. Norbert (20-3 overall, 16-0 NACC) at least a share of the conference title.
“I don’t like talking about (winning) streaks,” St. Norbert coach Amanda Leonhard-Perry laughed. “This team has good chemistry and works hard. We have good energy for this time of
the year. Many times, it feels like you’re dragging and hitting a wall.”
Casey Jepson (West De Pere) scored 11 first-half points before Kaycee Gierczak (Notre Dame Academy) pumped in 20 points after intermission to lead the Green Knights.
“Casey made some nice drives to the lane (in the first half), finished strong and gave us a nice boost,” Leonhard-Perry said. “Kaycee was struggling to finish in the first half, but I told her, ‘You’re fine — be tough around the rim and stay strong mentally.”
Gierczak also pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
“The first half was an adjustment, but I think we stepped it up in the second half,” Gierczak said. “Because I’m a shorter player in the post, I need to get good position in the lane, which I thought I did.”
Concordia came out strong to begin the game — bolting out to an 18-10 lead.
St. Norbert then went on a 7-0 run to end the first quarter.
“We talked about how (Concordia) could come out on fire, and they did,” Leonhard-Perry said. “They shot 50% in the first quarter, but we weathered that storm. They have good athletes who can drive and shoot.”
The Green Knights didn’t help their cause in the first quarter — shooting 33% from the field.
St. Norbert outscored the Cougars 18-10 in the second quarter to grab a 35-28 lead at the break.
After scoring four points in the first quarter, Jepson followed that up with seven in the second — including a baseline 3-pointer late in the half.
With a 51-41 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Green Knights left little doubt from there.
Gierczak’s 15 points were part of a 24-5 surge to end the game.
“We’re taking it one game at a time right now,” Gierczak said. “Our mentality is to go 1-0 every game, no matter who we’re playing.”
Olivia DeCleene (De Pere) had a game-high 11 assists for St. Norbert, who shot 42.6% overall from the field.
Mikalah Ellis led Concordia with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
St. Norbert’s four seniors — Natalie Cerrato, DeCleene, Gierczak and Ashley Ortscheid — were also recognized before the game.
“The seniors always hold a special place in my heart,” Leonhard-Perry said. “You get close with them over their time here.”
The Green Knights wore special pink warmup tops during pregame to raise awareness for breast cancer.
Leonhard-Perry also pledged $25 of her own money for every 3-pointer St. Norbert made.
Because the Green Knights buried five triples, Leonhard-Perry is $125 lighter in the wallet.
“It was a fun day on senior day,” Leonhard-Perry said. “The girls were kidding me at the shoot around — ‘We’re going to make you pay, Coach.’”
With two NACC regular-season games remaining, the Green Knights hit the road on Feb. 15 against Wisconsin Lutheran and Feb. 18 at Edgewood.
If St. Norbert can lock up the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NACC tournament, it would host both games.
The winner of the NACC tournament gets an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III national tournament.
“It would be nice to host both games, assuming we can win that first one,” Leonhard-Perry said. “We wouldn’t have to travel, and we can sleep in our own beds.”

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