In a three-way tie for the final playoff spot in the CCIW women's basketball tournament, North Central was in a tough spot. Even with both North Park and Elmhurst playing on the final day of the regular season, there was only one situation in which the Cardinals would end up moving on.
With all three teams playing Tuesday night, North Central needed to beat Millikin with both Elmhurst and North Park losing. As the night rolled on, the path seemed to clear. The Bluejays were blown out early by Wheaton College, losing by 20 points. While North Park hung around through the first half with conference champion Carthage, it couldn't keep the game close and lost fading away.
Not only the last game of the three to finish, North Central was also the closest. The lead changed multiple times in the second half, with neither team taking control. It wasn't until midway through the second half that the Cardinals pushed ahead for good, eventually winning the game 78-65 and punching their ticket for the conference tournament.
Coach Michelle Roof didn't find out about the other two games until there were just seconds remaining in the North Central victory when a fan let her know.
"The whole crowd started cheering and I told my team on the bench," Roof said. "I turned around and they just went nuts."
Moving on, North Central will head to Carthage for their semifinal against Carthage. North Central lost both previous meetings between the schools this season, most recently falling 105-80 Jan. 30.
Despite the long odds Roof likes her teams chances. After a few days of enjoying Tuesday's victory the Cardinals will refocus on how to pull off the upset.
"They are just excited. We are really proud of them," Roof said. "I want them to live in this moment for tonight and the next couple of days. We know we can beat Carthage, we just need to play well and make some shots."
Men's CCIW Tournament:
Wheaton will play North Central in the semifinal matchup in the men's basketball CCIW Tournament. The two teams split the season series, going to overtime in their latest meeting, a victory for Wheaton 71-69.
Since their last meeting, both teams have hit a hot streak. Wheaton has won its last four games to finish the regular season, while North Central rides a six-game streak that includes an overtime win over conference champion Illinois Wesleyan in its final game.
The tournament will kick off at 5 p.m. Friday in Bloomington.