UNIONTOWN, Pennsylvania — Trailing by 29 points in the third quarter, the Silver Lake College women's basketball team could have given up.
After all, the No. 5 seed Lakers weren't playing well against the No. 1 seed, Concordia College-Alabama, which was trying to repeat as national champions.
But giving up simply isn't part of the Lakers' mentality.
Rallying with hot shooting, fierce defense and a gritty determination, SLC stormed back from a shaky start to slice the deficit to single digits in the closing minutes of a Division 1 semifinal game Friday at the United States Collegiate Athletic Association's 2017 National Championships.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, their furious comeback and 54 second-half points fell just short as the Hornets made free throws down the stretch to sweat out a 95-82 victory, ending SLC's Cinderella run. The Lakers were the only Division 1 women's team to pull off an upset in the first round when they beat No. 4 seed Florida College.
"The way we fought back, that really showed the character of every player on this team," said head coach Mike Flentje, who led the Lakers to their second straight trip to the national championships. "All season, we've fought to the end. That's what we did today – we kept fighting and fighting and nearly pulled this one out. It was an amazing effort."
Kudick, who played all 40 minutes, relentlessly drove the lane and scored 16 of her 21 points in the second half, in addition to tying a season high with six assists.
"Amanda made sure she gave it all she had in her last game," Flentje said. "She's just a stellar athlete, and she proved that."
Kotche finished with her first double-double of the season, recording season highs in points (22) and rebounds (13) while adding three assists. Twelve of her points came in the second half.
"Hailee made a lot of big shots," Flentje said. "It was one of her best games of the season. She was all over the court for us."
The Lakers finished with nine three-pointers — their highest total in the last 14 games — while their defense forced the Hornets to miss all seven of their three-point attempts.
SLC sophomore guard Ashley Rumlow of Oshkosh scored 12 points on four three-pointers, including two in the second half. It was the 13th time this season she sank at least four threes in a game.
Also hot from the outside was junior guard Danielle Byrum of Sheboygan, who made all three of her three-pointers in the second half en route to nine points. She tied a season high with six assists.
"Our outside shooting helped us in the second half during the comeback," Flentje said. "That helped open things up inside too."
Junior forward Danelle Buck of Newton scored six of her eight points in the second half and was second on the team with six rebounds.
Also contributing for the Lakers were freshman forward Tasha Rabe of Kiel with eight points and four rebounds, and senior guard-forward Abby Gerhard of Iron Mountain, Michigan, with two points and two rebounds.
"The way our team performed today, especially in that second half, speaks volumes about our program," Flentje said. "When we lost four seniors from last year's team, as well as another player, and then one of our guards, Jordan Barbeau, is lost for the season with an injury, I didn't know how much of a chance we'd have to return to nationals this year. But they just wouldn't be denied. They fought hard to get to nationals, and they're heading home with a first-round victory and a really great effort in the semifinals."
PHOTOS: To see pictures from the game, please visit this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/silver-lake-college/sets/72157677585439143