There was a postseason feeling at the Schaefer Center on Thursday and the Indiana Tech men's and women's basketball teams each harnessed it to make early tournament statements.
The No. 2 seed Warriors raced out to a 14-point lead in the first 3:55 of the men's game and were never threatened on the way to a 90-75 victory over seventh-seeded Aquinas in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinals and the No. 2 seed women overcame a slow start by holding seventh-seeded Cornerstone to 26% shooting in a 73-37 romp.
“It started earlier (Thursday) afternoon, you could tell it was a playoff atmosphere in the building,” said Tech center Josh Kline, who had 18 points. “This is my third year here now and you can tell when it gets to playoff time. It's special and you feel that playoff energy.”
Both teams move on to Saturday afternoon's semifinals, setting up another doubleheader at the Schaefer Center. The men (19-8) will face sixth-seeded Concordia for a trip to the title game, while the 13th-ranked women (24-2) will get No. 3 seed Siena Heights.
The women's team trailed by as many as six in the first quarter before coast-to-coast layups from Alexis Hill and Erika Foy and a late 3-pointer from Eileen Salisbury sent the Warriors in front 13-12 at the end of the period.
The rest of the game was all Tech. Cornerstone shot just 1 for 15 from the field in the second quarter, and Tech cruised the rest of the way.
Steckler and Salisbury had three 3s apiece and guard Emma Touminen had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Tech.
“This team's great because night-in and night-out you don't who it's going to be (stepping up),” coach Jessie Biggs said. “Today it was Laney, knocking in some big 3s, ready to catch and shoot. That's what I like about this team is somebody steps up and they do a pretty good job of, if somebody's feeling good, getting them the ball.”
The two-time defending WHAC Tournament champions were without second-leading scorer Kyra Whitaker (14.3 points per game), who is dealing with wrist and ankle injuries. The Warriors are trying not to rush her back before the NAIA national tournament.
The Tech men had more energy from the tip than Aquinas. Cory McKinney and Max Perez each made an early 3 and McKinney added a layup before Grant Smith capped the early haymaker with a nifty behind-the-back dribble into a stepback 3 that swished home. He let out a roar and the Warriors led 18-4 with 16:05 to go in the half.
Aquinas never got its deficit back into the single digits.
“We came out with a bunch of energy,” Kline said. “I think we wanted it a lot more than they did and we just came really focused and executed the game plan.”
Perez had 18 points and Rog Stein added 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Warriors shot 64% in the first half and 58% overall.