Storm top Wartburg, advance to IIAC Championship game

INDIANOLA, Iowa – Stacey Schutjer's left-handed layup helped cap a comeback effort in the final minutes  as the Simpson women's basketball team beat Wartburg 66-63 in the Iowa Conference Tournament semifinals on Thursday night at Cowles Fieldhouse.

Top-seeded Simpson trailed by seven with four minutes left in the game but closed on a 12-2 run, earning the right to host second-seeded Coe in the IIAC Tournament Championship game on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Schutjer finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks and Kate Nielsen had 26 points and 10 boards for the Storm (21-5), who advance to their 11th tournament championship game and fifth in a row.

"I thought the girls really played like a championship team tonight," head coach Brian Niemuth said. "They took care of business at the end, executing on defense, not giving up second shots and executing the offense well. I thought we stepped up in the last four to five minutes."

Simpson trailed by as much as eight points in the second half, but turned to the low-post combination of Schutjer and Nielsen down the stretch. The duo combined for 17 of the team's final 19 points.

"When they take one away, the other is able to step up," Niemuth said.

Abi Weidemann scored 22 points to lead the fourth-seeded Knights (18-9), who fell to 3-4 against Simpson in the IIAC Tournament.

Trailing 63-59 with 2:16 left in the game, Nielsen cut the lead to two with a layup. Kelsie Reeves stole the ensuing inbounds pass, which led to a foul and a pair of free throws by Nielsen to tie the game at 63. Cathy Kain's steal on the next possession led to Schutjer's go-ahead layup.

The Storm blocked two of Wartburg's final three shot attempts, the first by Schutjer and the last by Kain on Stephanie Reiter's potential game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

Simson led 33-30 at halftime thanks to a 3-pointer by Ali Sokol as time expired.

Saturday's matchup with the Kohawks marks the third consecutive meeting between the two teams in the IIAC Tournament Championship game. Simpson won at Coe in 2010 while Coe earned the league's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Tournament in 2011, a game also played in Cedar Rapids.

Coe advanced to the title game by way of a 69-58 win over sixth-seeded Cornell.

"They [Coe] are a big, physical team," Niemuth said. "We have to make sure we are ready to handle that physical style."

The two teams split the regular season series, with Coe taking a 75-72 decision in Cedar Rapids and Simpson notching a 93-66 win in Indianola.

Click here for the IIAC Tournament Webpage.