Mission Accomplished

MANHATTAN, Kan.-- The season ends in disappointment for 102 teams each March. One NCAA champion is crowned. One WNIT champion is crowned.

The Kansas State Wildcats became one of two teams in the nation to end their season with a win defeating Marquette 77-65 in front the second largest crowd (13,340) in postseason WNIT championship game history Friday night.

All this from a team picked to finish eighth in the Big 12.

Didn't the Cats know Ohlde, Koehn, Wecker and Mahoney had graduated? Didn't they know this was supposed to be a down year for the program?

Apparently the team that started three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior didn't get the memo.

"Everybody underestimated us at the beginning of the season, but we proved to ourselves and to everybody else that we are a team that is going to compete," said freshman point guard Shalee Lehning, who became only the eighth Big 12 player to ever record a triple-double posting ten boards, ten assists and 14 points.

Every Wildcat who saw action contributed something; whether it was in the form of points, rebounds or minutes. It was a team performance.

"We lost All-Americans, WNBA All-Stars and we really didn't have that one particular go-to player," said junior guard Twiggy McIntyre.

"We're just a team and everyone depends on each other every single practice, every single day. We're the epitome of what a team is this season."

Marquette (22-11) was no way intimidated by the sold-out crowd and battled the entire game.

The Golden Eagles led 39-38 at intermission thanks to some hot shooting from beyond the arc. They simply couldn't miss hitting six of eight three-pointers and 60-percent overall from the field.

Kansas State (24-10) kept pace with the visitors from the Big East stealing the ball ten times and turning 13 turnovers into 12 points.

The lead changed for the tenth and final time in the second half as sophomore guard Kim Dietz sank one of her five three pointers with 7:29 left on the clock giving the Cats a 61-58 lead.

"At that point we didn't respond," Marquette coach Terri Mitchell said. "And then they hit another one and we didn't respond."

The three ignited a 9-0 KSU run over nearly three and a half minutes.

Dietz, who was named to the WNIT All-Tournament team, led all scorers with 21 points.

The Golden Eagles shooting percentage dropped significantly in the second half. They hit just 27.6-percent from the field and just one three-pointer in eight attempts.

The Wildcats gained momentum as the seconds ticked away and the crowd grew louder and louder.

"We owe a great deal to our fans for their support over the course of this tournament," K-State coach Deb Patterson said.

"It was an absolutely incredible environment not just for us as Kansas State Wildcats, but I think for the organizers of WNIT and for women's basketball."

Danielle Kamm led Marquette with 16 points. Jasmine McCullough added 13.

McIntyre tallied 16 points on a six of ten shooting performance. Junior guard Claire Coggins added eight points and was named WNIT Tournament MVP.

"We have such a great understanding of who we are," Patterson said. "We've established an identity of being a true team."

Kansas State's first post-season championship is just another step up for the program.

The Wildcats' high school recruits got to see the net cut down. Young girls left Bramlage Coliseum with aspirations of wearing the purple and silver.

One girl commented to her friend, "Just think, in a couple years we'll be here, but we'll be playing."


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