There was little time to celebrate Saturday's semifinal victory.
"It's been an absolute whirlwind after this one," Fort Lewis College women's basketball coach Mark Kellogg said late Saturday night from Mankato, Minn.
There were phone calls.
There were text messages.
There were interviews.
There were video screenings.
There was, of course, the obligatory live-in-person scouting of tonight's Central Regional Tournament championship opponent.
"They're good. They're small," said Kellogg, a bit surprised at the 5-foot-11-and-shorter Mavericks.
Minnesota State-Mankato, the No. 1 seed and home team in the Regional, starts a 5-11 post, a 5-9 guard, and three 5-8 guards.
Mankato (28-2) went nine deep in Saturday's 59-39 semifinal victory against Minnesota-State Moorhead, which played after Fort Lewis' 75-69 overtime victory against Winona State, but essentially gave seven players meaningful minutes.
Off the bench, Mankato runs out a
6-1 center and another 5-8 guard.
"Who is going to guard Allison?" said Kellogg, referring to his 5-11 post Allison Rosel. "And Audrey, who is going to guard Audrey?"
Audrey George, at 6-0, is the Skyhawks' tallest starter.
"We have to figure out how to take advantage of the inside," Kellogg said. And, he added: "Limit their transition points, that's priority A."
Mankato shares three common opponents with Fort Lewis: Nebraska-Kearney, St. Cloud State and Winona State.
Mankato defeated Nebraska-Kearney 91-88 on Nov. 29 at Kearney, Neb.
Mankato defeated St. Cloud twice, by seven in St. Cloud and by 11 in Mankato.
Mankato defeated Winona 74-59 on Jan. 10 in Mankato.
Fort Lewis defeated Nebraska-Kearney
66-57 on Dec. 20 at Kearney and has earned back-to-back Regional victories against St. Cloud and Winona to reach tonight's championship game.
Fort Lewis defeated St. Cloud by five and Winona by six in overtime.
"They're going to pressure you in man and try and take you out of your offense," Kellogg said, no different than what Winona attempted and no different than what FLC attempts to do on any given night. Winona was successful for a half, briefly forcing Fort Lewis into ill-advised second-half shots not within their half-court offensive sets.
"I thought we looked absolutely exhausted at the 10-minute mark, so I tried to ride Tex (Lauren McCulloch), Dana (Schreibvogel) and Mary (Rose Paiz) as long as I could," Kellogg said after Saturday's game. "Around the 7-minute mark, I brought the starters back in."
Fort Lewis came from eight down with 7½ to play to send the game into overtime.
Erin Kerr, the team's lone senior, hit a game-tying pull-up
8-foot jumper with 4.4 seconds to play in regulation, then scored nine of her 14 points in the extra period. George augmented Kerr's OT production with all five of her points in overtime.
Katie Mackey, who is averaging 19.5 points in the Regional, scored a team-high 21 points.
Rosel had 16 points and 13 rebounds, her sixth double-double this season.
Ana Wurtz, who finished her junior season at Winona with 92 3-pointers, scored a game-high 29 points on 11-for-21 from the floor and 5-for-9 from 3.
"Again, one kid I don't think is going to beat you," said Kellogg, whose team allowed a career-high 28 points to St. Cloud sophomore guard Talisha Barlow in the quarterfinals.
"I thought we did a good job defensively most of (Saturday) night. We're hanging our hat on defense right now. If we're going to win, it's going to be on defense."
No. 2 Fort Lewis (28-3) will play Mankato at 6 p.m. MDT today for a chance at the NCAA Division II Women's Championship elite eight March 24-27 in San Antonio. The game will be webcast live and broadcast on KIUP 930 AM.
"That was just a great, great, great game to be a part of," Kellogg said of Saturday's semifinal, the program's second NCAA victory ever and Fort Lewis' only win in postseason play outside of the FLC men's soccer program.
"Winona is a great team, and you hate to see anyone have to lose a game like that. You really do."