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Changed call changes Saint Francis’ fate

– A changed call changed the outcome for the Saint Francis women’s basketball team in the quarterfinals of the Division II women’s basketball national tournament at Tyson Events Center on Saturday.

A charging foul on three-time defending champion Northwestern (Iowa) was overruled and called a block on the Cougars late in their game to spark Northwestern to an 87-77 victory.

Northwestern advanced to its sixth consecutive trip to the Final Four in search of its fourth straight national title. The win extended the Raiders’ record streak of consecutive victories at the national tournament to 18.

But the win wasn’t without controversy.

Northwestern (26-7) built a seven-point lead early in the second half only to watch the Cougars pull within a single point behind the inside play of Brooke Ridley, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

However, the game would swing when the Raiders’ Kendra De Jong drove the ball down the lane and went for a layup.

She collided with Ridley and was whistled for a charge, but the officials conferred and changed the call to a block, determining Ridley was inside the charge circle.

It was Ridley’s fourth foul and kept De Jong from picking up her fourth. That resulted in Cougars coach Gary Andrews being whistled for a technical foul. De Jong made 3 of 4 free throws and added another bucket to turn a 57-56 Northwestern advantage into a 62-56 lead.

“It was big because we never want Kendra to pick up her fourth foul,” said Northwestern’s Karen Hutson, who led the team with 22 points. “We work together as a team, but anytime someone is aggressive going to the basket – even if they get called for a foul – it pumps you up.”

Ridley fouled out with 5:25 to play and her team down three, but the Cougars (32-4) did not let Northwestern get away. They were as close as five in the final five minutes but could not get closer.

Andrews did not hide his disappointment in the way the game was called with his team attempting 23 free throws tothe Raiders’ 46.

“We needed the officials to call the push and shove because they are bigger, stronger than us,” he said. “We knew that coming in, and we knew we weren’t getting any breaks. They are going to draw more people if Northwestern wins, so we know the odds are against us.

“I hate to cry sour grapes, but we were driving and getting hammered, and we only shot 23 free throws. That was ridiculous.”

The Raiders, who defeated the Cougars in their only other meeting in the semifinals of the national tournament in 2000, struggled at the free-throw line in the final three minutes but made enough to secure the win.

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