St. Ambrose was unable to send its only two seniors off with a win in their final home game Saturday, but Reeann McCarty and Karli Atkinson will get the chance to play on once the regular season ends.
Despite a 77-53 loss to Cardinal Stritch at Lee Lohman Arena, results elsewhere in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference allowed the Queen Bees to secure a berth in the league’s upcoming eight-team women’s basketball tourney.
Results of two road games during the upcoming week will determine just where St. Ambrose fits into that mix, still positioned to finish anywhere from fourth to eighth in the conference race.
"We have a big week coming up, and we need to be on top of our game," said McCarty, who led the Queen Bees with 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Wolves.
In many respects, they’ll need to play the way Cardinal Stritch played against St. Ambrose to forge a tie with the Bees in the crowded middle of the CCAC standings.
Cardinal Stritch rebounded, defended and took care of the ball, all of which contributed to the Queen Bees losing for the first time in five games.
"They did the things they are known for doing, and it should be a good lesson for us with going on the road for two games next week," St. Ambrose coach Krista Van Hauen said. "When you go on the road, you can always play defense, you can always rebound and you can always take care of the ball."
The Wolves did all of those things to help answer a quick start by the Queen Bees, which included McCarty scoring 14 of her points in the opening quarter.
"I felt like we were going back and forth with them, doing what we wanted to do. Then things got away from us," McCarty said.
Cardinal Stritch helped itself with 10-of-15 shooting in the second quarter, pulling away from a 28-26 lead by limiting the Queen Bees to a Candace Finnin 3-point basket over the final 5 minutes, 42 seconds of the first half.
Led by 25 points and 12 rebounds from Kelli Schrauth, the Wolves closed the quarter on a 16-3 run that left St. Ambrose trailing 44-29 at the break after shooting 36.7 percent in the first half.
The Queen Bees (12-16, 10-8 CCAC) couldn’t overcome that margin, pulling within 45-33 on a basket by Madi Epperson in the opening minutes of the third quarter that was quickly answered by an 11-2 run.
"It was tough for us to get anything going against them. Their defense was solid, and they didn’t turn it over," Van Hauen said, referencing the Wolves’ six turnovers in the game.
Cardinal Stritch (16-9, 10-8 CCAC) helped itself with a 41-30 edge on the boards, which included 18 offensive rebounds that led to a 26-6 advantage in second-chance points.
"The game got away from us in the second quarter, but you can’t give a team the number of second looks that we gave them," Van Hauen said. "The way they worked the offensive boards really gave us problems, and those second chances, those were the difference."