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Thomas More women will face top-ranked team in NAIA semifinals after close win in second round

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Thomas More junior Alex Smith scored seven of her team-high 24 points during a late rally that carried the Saints to a 66-62 win over Montana Western in the quarterfinals of the NAIA women’s basketball championship tournament on Wednesday in Sioux City, Iowa.

After Montana Western took a 51-50 lead with 6:59 left in the fourth quarter, Smith made her next three field goal attempts, including a 3-pointer, to spark Thomas More’s game-ending 16-11 scoring run.

Alex Smith scored 24 points off the bench for Thomas More in the win over Montana Western. (Photo from team website)

The Saints (30-3) advance to the semifinals and face Central Methodist (35-0) of Missouri at 7 p.m. local time on Friday at Tyson Events Center.

In the final NAIA national rankings, Central Methodist was No. 1 and Thomas More was No. 3. The teams played in last year’s semifinals and the Saints came away with an 82-62 win.

If the Saints win Friday, they will play in the NAIA championship final for the third straight year. Thomas More won last year’s tournament and was runner-up in 2021.

In Wednesday’s game, Smith came off the bench and played a season-high 29 minutes. She was 9 of 13 from the field overall, 5 of 8 from behind the 3-point line and grabbed five rebounds.

Smith gave Thomas More’s offense a much-needed lift as the five starters shot 25 percent (9 of 36) from the field during the game. The only starters who reached double figures in scoring were seniors Emily Simon (13) and Zoie Barth (11).

Barth was 3 of 12 from the field, but she did finish with game-high totals of 10 rebounds and seven assists. Kelly Brenner scored nine points off the bench for the Saints by hitting all three of her 3-point shots.

Thomas More had slim leads at the end of each quarter and the score was tied twice in the final period. Montana Western took its last lead, 51-50, on a free throw by Shainy Mack, who got seven of her team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter.

Montana Western shot 44.7 percent (21 of 47) from the field compared to Thomas More’s 36.8 percent (21 of 57). The Saints did score 17 points off turnovers with Barth and Simon making three steals each.

MONTANA WESTERN   14  10  18  20 — 62
THOMAS MORE             19    9  17  21 — 66

WESTERN (28-6): Mack 5 4 17, Fitzgerald 5 0 14, Sweeney 4 5 14, King 3 0 6, Momberg 1 2 4, Davis 1 0 3, Hagy 1 0 2, Cooley 1 0 2. Totals: 21 11 62.

THOMAS MORE (30-3): Smith 9 1 24, Simon 3 6 13, Barth 3 4 11, Brenner 3 0 9, Martin 2 2 6, Hurst 1 0 3. Totals: 21 13 66.

3-point goals: TM — Smith 5, Brenner 3, Hurst, Barth, Simon. W — Fitzgerald 4, Mack 3, Sweeney Davis.


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