UNIONTOWN, Pennsylvania — The Silver Lake College women's basketball team accomplished something on Wednesday it hadn't done in more than two decades — record a victory at the national tournament.
Fueled by a relentless offensive attack and a tenacious defensive effort, No. 5 seed Silver Lake College upset No. 4 seed Florida College 72-55 in a first-round showdown at the United States Collegiate Athletic Association's 2017 National Championships.
Silver Lake College (18-12) next plays No. 1 seed Concordia-Alabama (23-4) on Friday at 10 a.m. (Central time) in the Division 1 semifinals.
The Lakers are playing in their second straight USCAA National Championship tournament, after coming up short in both of their games last year. However, the mood was much more energized this time around as smiles, hugs and high-fives flooded the bench after Wednesday's victory.
"It's an indescribable feeling going to nationals and then winning a game on top of it," said Mike Flentje, in his 10th year as head coach. "It's very gratifying and exciting for not only the players and coaches, but the whole Silver Lake College campus and the Manitowoc community. This was a truly great win for our program."
Lakers forward Tasha Rabe of Kiel came off the bench and played like anything but a freshman, finishing with a game-high 18 points and a team-high 12 rebounds. She went 10-of-12 at the free-throw line.
"For a freshman to step up like that with a double-double, that's huge," Flentje said. "She really gave a gritty effort out there."
Also scoring in double figures for SLC were senior guard Amanda Kudick of Kewaunee with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists; junior forward Danelle Buck of Valders with 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots; and sophomore guard Ashley Rumlow of Oshkosh with 10 points and two assists.
Senior guard-forward Abby Gerhard of Iron Mountain, Michigan, added nine points and two rebounds, while sophomore forward Hailee Kotche of Manitowoc finished with seven points, eight rebounds and three assists.
"Everyone really stepped up and did a fantastic job," Flentje said. "It was a total team effort for us on both offense and defense."
The game was tied 10-10 after the first quarter before the Lakers staked a 26-21 halftime lead. SLC came out red hot in the third quarter, outscoring the Falcons 24-9 and taking a commanding 50-30 lead into the final period. SLC finished the game with 23 points off turnovers.
The Lakers held the Falcons to 27.1 percent (19-of-70) shooting from the field.
"I thought our game plan with the 2-3 zone defense worked well," Flentje said. "I don't think in my whole career I ever played the whole game with a 2-3 zone. We just stuck with it, and I'm glad to say that everything worked."
The other Division 1 women's semifinal matchup on Friday features No. 2 seed Berea College of Kentucky vs. No. 3 seed Rochester College of Michigan.
PHOTOS: To see photos from the Lakers' victory, please visit this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/silver-lake-college/sets/72157679048132421.