WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (IHSAA) – The Western Panthers found themselves in unfamiliar territory after the Class 3A title game. And they relished the feeling.
The Panthers’ girls basketball team and its fans celebrated merrily following a stirring 38-35 victory over the Evansville Mater Dei Wildcats. It represented the first state girls basketball crown for Western.
Mater Dei, which had won 19 straight games, was seeking its third consecutive state championship and first in 3A after moving up a class due to the Tournament Success Factor.
A close game throughout, it boiled down to the final seconds. When Maura Muensterman sank one of two free throws with 23 seconds remaining, the Wildcats sliced Western’s lead to 36-34.
But Western’s Siera Daniel, attempting her first two free throws of the night, answered by hitting both with 21.2 seconds remaining.
Both teams played a disciplined offensive style and sound defense. Western’s offense accomplished 40 percent shooting (14-of-35). Mater Dei connected on just 24.4 percent from the field (10-of-41). Western’s largest lead was six points, Mater Dei’s four.
Carly O’Neal led Western’s scoring with 12 points. Coach Chris Keisling’s Panthers, ranked sixth in the girls coaches’ poll, finished 23-3.
Muensterman topped Mater Dei’s scoring with 12. Tori Schickel totaled 11 points and added 15 rebounds, tying a 3A title game mark.
Coach Steve Goans’ Wildcats, rated second in the coaches’ poll, ended their season at 26-2.