Women’s college basketball: Thorne leads Indians into Final Four

Published 5:16 pm Monday, March 20, 2023

By Mike London

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — It will be remembered as the day that 5-foot-6 Lyrik Thorne, one of the smallest and lightest Catawba Indians, carried more than 2,000 pounds of coaches and teammates into Division II’s Final Four.

Catawba’s women’s basketball team scored 30 points in the second half of Monday’s 77-70 Elite Eight victory against California State University, Dominguez Hills. Thorne personally accounted for 21 of them to lift coach Terence McCutcheon’s Indians to more history-making magic.

Every time the third-seeded CSUDH Toros seemed ready to take over at St. Joseph Civic Center, Thorne made a 3-pointer or pressure-packed free throws to keep the sixth-seeded Indians in front.

In the fourth quarter, when Thorne scored 15 points to lug the Indians to the finish line, she was an All-American — and then some.

In the first half, it was a different story. Catawba produced one of those ultimate team effort sort of things.

Janiya Downs got in quick foul trouble — one reach-in and one attempt to draw a charge put her on the bench with two personals and two points. And Thorne hadn’t found it yet.

But the Indians still played a dynamic first half. Sara McIntosh fought for six points. Jada Porter got three. Mercedes Wampler played her best half of the season and had eight points. Mary Spry and Miyah Dubose jumped off the bench to combine for 14 points and Lauren Ford and Nala Baker came off the pine to make 3-pointers.

With 22 bench points in the first half and huge offense from Wampler, the Indians (29-5) were a whirlwind and led the high-powered Toros 47-35.

Thorne scored to kick off the second half, and the Indians peaked at 49-35 with a 14-point lead. Then the Toros (31-3) made their inevitable run, the Indians’ shooting hands turned to ice, and by the end of the third quarter, the Toros were only down 56-55 and had all the momentum.

Thorne’s 3-pointer to kick off the fourth quarter was the game’s biggest shot. Things were starting to look desperate when she connected.

With the Indians leading 59-58, Thorne made two free throws. With Catawba clinging to a 61-60 lead, she buried another 3-pointer.

McIntosh got a bucket and Thorne made two more free throws, the Indians got several stops, and with 3:25 left, Catawba had a bit of breathing room at 68-62.

With 1:02 left, Thorne actually missed two free throws, but then the Toros also missed two free ones.

When Thorne got back to the line, there were no more misses. She was automatic. She made two with 19 seconds and two more with 8.5 seconds for a five-point lead. That sealed it.

Wampler made two late free throws for the final margin.

The epic victory included scoring by nine Indians. Thorne’s 27 was backed up by 10 each by Spry, McIntosh and Wampler.

For Catawba to win a game of that magnitude with Downs scoring two points was hard to imagine. The shots never did fall for Downs, but she was a factor on the defensive board, raking down one Toro miss after another.

Catawba won the turnover battle (23-17). That off-set losing the rebound struggle (44-39).

Next for the Indians is second-seeded Minnesota Duluth, a 61-41 winner over Assumption.  That game will be played at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Also advancing were top-seeded Ashland and defending champion Glenville State.

Catawba                       24   23   9   21   — 77

Dominguez Hills       18    17   20   15   — 70

Catawba — Thorne 27, Spry 10, Wampler 10, McIntosh 10, Dubose 6, Ford 5, Porter 4, Baker 3, Downs 2