Purdue Calumet Falls to Stritch in CCAC Semifinal, 57-53

PUC-PeregrinsThe No. 21 Purdue University Calumet women’s basketball team gave No. 6 Cardinal Stritch all it could handle in the second half, but the Peregrines were unable to capitalize late in a 57-53 loss in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament semifinals Friday night.

Stritch (26-4) will take on top-seeded Saint Xavier, a winner over Saint Francis , in Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship at SXU’s Shannon Center. Both teams have already earned an automatic bid to the NAIA Division II National Tournament, set for March 11-17 in Sioux City, Iowa.

The Peregrines (21-8) trailed by as many as 16 in the first half but stormed back to cut the lead to just one, 54-53, on two Sammy Dillman (Bedford, Ind./North Lawrence) free throws with 17 seconds left.

But the Wolves were able to keep the Peregrines at bay late, draining 3-of-4 free throws to seal it in the final seconds.

Purdue Calumet sophomore Cassidy Deno (Otterbein, Ind./Benton Central) carried the Peregrines with 25 points, making 9-of-14 shots, including 4-of-8 from behind the arc. Her biggest shot came with 1:05 left in regulation, as she drained a triple from the wing to cut the Stritch lead to three, 54-51.

Juniors Patrice McBee (Monterey, Ind./Culver Community) and Jada Buggs (Elkhart, Ind./Elkhart Memorial) added 10 points each and Dillman finished with seven points for the Peregrines, who will hope to gain an at-large bid into the NAIA Division II National Tournament, which takes 32 teams.

The NAIA Division II selection show is set for Wednesday.

Stritch opened up its big first-half lead midway through the first period when the Peregrines struggled early from the field, as Purdue Calumet was held without a field goal for 10 minutes, and without a point for six minutes. Deno finally broke the field-goal drought with her own mini-run, as she scored eight points -- including two triples -- in the final 3:37 to cut the Stritch halftime lead to single digits at nine, 31-22.

The Wolves would an nine- to 10-point lead throughout the second half's first 10 minutes until Purdue Calumet finally cut it to five (48-43) on a Dillman layup at the 7:25 mark. After Stritch answered with two straight Emily Neitzel buckets, Buggs drilled a trifecta and Deno buried another jumper to again cut the Stritch lead to just six, 54-48, with 3:46 left.

Despite Deno's heroics on a clutch transition 3 late, the Peregrines were never able to regain the lead down the stretch, as Purdue Calumet led just once in the game -- by two, on the game's first basket.

The Peregrines finished the game shooting 43.5 percent (20 of 46) after a slow first half from the field (30.8 percent). Stritch shot 41.7 percent (20 of 48) and outrebounded the Peregrines 31-25, though Purdue Calumet had less turnovers (16-19) and more steals (13-3) than the Wolves.

McBee and senior Kami Graber (Nashville, Ind./Brown County) both hit career-highs in steals with five, as Graber tied her career-best and McBee set a new mark.

Mika Passini was the lone Wolves player in double figures with 12, as Stritch saw 11 different players score in the contest, including its bench, which outscored the Peregrines' 25-1.