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Columbia College women fall to Clarke in NAIA Tournament opener

Columbia College women fall to Clarke in NAIA Tournament opener

March 15th, 2019 by News Tribune in College Sports

BILLINGS, Mont. — The Columbia College women's basketball team had its 16-point halftime lead disappear, as Clarke rallied in the second half for a 62-59 upset win Thursday in the first round of the NAIA Division I National Tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena.

Columbia College was the No. 1 seed in the Duer Bracket, while Clarke was the No. 8 seed.

The Cougars outscored the Pride 15-5 in the first quarter and 18-12 in the second to lead 33-17 at halftime.

Clarke (22-11) ended the third quarter on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 43-39. In the fourth, Columbia College stretched its advantage back to double digits with 6:18 to play, but Clarke answered with a 10-1 run to close the gap to 56-55 with about three minutes remaining.

The Pride tied the game at 58 with a 3-pointer with 2:27 to play, then scored four of the game's final five points. The Cougars missed their last 10 shots from the field, including a pair of 3-point attempts — including a half-court shot at the buzzer — in the closing seconds with a chance to tie the game.

Senior guard Morgan Brandt (Fatima High School) finished with a team-high 15 points for Columbia College, adding a team-best nine rebounds.

Brandt shot 2-of-6 from the field, but she made all 11 attempts from the free-throw line, including eight in the fourth quarter.

For the season, Brandt finished with 412 points (12.5 per game) and 289 rebounds (8.8 per game), shooting 81.2 percent (125-of-154) from the free-throw line.

For her career, Brandt ends with 1,408 points (10.7 per game) and 1,002 rebounds (7.6 per game). She leaves the Cougars at No. 6 on the school's all-time scoring list and as No. 1 all-time in career rebounds.

Junior forward Mai Nienhueser (Helias High School) did not play Thursday for the Cougars.

Columbia College, which entered the national tournament ranked No. 3 in the NAIA Top 25 poll, finishes the season with a 29-5 record.