Statesmen vanquish Vikings

William Penn senior Brenda Pennington drives to the basket against the defense of Grand View senior Kelsie Willert (35) during the Heart of America Conference tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday night at Penn Gymnasium in Oskaloosa.

OSKALOOSA — The William Penn women’s basketball revenge tour is officially in full swing.

Brenda Pennington scored a career-high 28 points, sinking a corner 3-pointer that kicked off an early 9-0 run. Pennington finished 7-10 from the field, including 5-7 from 3-point range, as the Statesmen avenged an earlier home loss to Grand View with an 80-48 win in the Heart of America Conference tournament quarterfinals.

“Brenda is a heck of a player. She does a lot of good things for us,” William Penn head women’s basketball coach Steve Williamson said. “The one thing is that she’s been inconsistent shooting the basketball, but she’s been working hard at it in the gym over the past month or so. She’s getting more confidence in herself and, when you hit those first couple of shots, you could see she felt good about it.”

Next up for William Penn, another postseason game against at home against a conference rival that already owns a win at Penn Gymnasium. Clarke University will return to Oskaloosa on Friday for the Heart tournament semifinals after earning a 66-63 overtime win over the Statesmen back on Jan. 30.

“We’ve got that in the back of our minds,” Pennington said. “It’s definitely another chance for us to get some revenge.”

William Penn (24-6) shook off a cold shooting start as the Statesmen missed five straight shots in the first 2:05. Finally, with the shot clock running down William Penn’s third possession, Pennington sank a tying 3-pointer.

Halley Mullinnix rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Kelsie Willert on Grand View’s next possession, then sank a 3-pointer on the other end to give William Penn the lead for good. Pennington found Olivia Usher for William Penn’s third straight 3-pointer, giving the Statesmen a sudden 9-3 lead.

“Brenda is a great leader, someone that our girls look up to,” Williamson said. “She runs our team. She’s our coach on the floor. I give her a lot of freedom to call sets and call plays. She’s been around me now for two years. She knows what I expect and she does a great job executing it.”

Pennington drove in for William Penn’s first two field goals in the paint, giving the Statesmen a 13-3 lead. Grand View (17-14) stopped the run with the first of three made 3-pointers for Mackenzie Roberts as the former Van Meter Bulldog helped get the Vikings back in the game finishing as the only double-figure scorer for the Des Moines school with 10 points.

Grand View got as close as three twice in the first half. Each time, Pennington responded scoring a lay-up to end a nine-point opening quarter and stepped into a 3-pointer before collecting a steal and driving in for a lay-up as the Statesmen finished the first half on a 16-5 run, opening a 35-21 halftime lead.

“It plays a big part in hitting a shot early to get everyone’s confidence going,” Pennington said. “I missed my first two shot, made my third and just kind of got hot. My teammates did a great job finding me.

“I always have confidence. You can’t really play well without it.”

Normally a pass-first type of point guard, Pennington carried her team early with 17 of William Penn’s first 24 points. The Statesmen spread the ball around with five different players recording at least one assists, led by four each for Usher and Autumn Voigt, who also led William Penn with a game-high eight rebounds helping the Statesmen own a 44-27 edge on the glass.

“We had 16 offensive rebounds and only allowed Grand View to get six,” Williamson said. “Overall, our defense led to a lot of easy shots in transition. When we start hitting those shots, it seems like that basket becomes a bid ocean. You almost feel like every time you put a shot up, it’s going to go in.”

Usher added 13 points for the Statesmen, including a coast-to-coast lay-up to cap an 11-2 run that doubled William Penn’s nine-point lead in the third quarter. Haley Mullinnix added 12 points, sinking four shots from 3-point range as William Penn scored 45 points in the second half to put the game out of reach.

“We just have to make sure our heads don’t get too big after this performance,” Williamson said. “We’ve got to stay focused. Clarke is a great team coming in. We know they’re going to be ready to go. We’re going to be ready to go. There’s still a lot on the line.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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