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Providence women to play for NAIA title after edging Frontier Conference rival Carroll in semifinals

Providence women's basketball
Ashlee Maldonado
Posted at 6:50 PM, Mar 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-25 23:28:02-04

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Providence will play for the NAIA women's basketball national championship.

The Argos worked out a 58-53 win over Frontier Conference rival Carroll in hard-fought, defensive battle that lived up to expectations Monday at the Tyson Events Center.


Both teams struggled to score in the opening quarter, as the game was tied 2-2 more than five minutes in. The teams settled in to end the period, and Providence took a 12-11 lead at the end of the quarter.

The Argos, keyed by Belt native Kolby Pimperton, controlled the second quarter, though. Pimperton started the frame with a 3-pointer — one of three she made in the period — and Providence used a 10-0 run to build a 27-15 lead. Carroll's Maddie Geritz scored the final four points of the half, and Providence's lead would be 27-19 at halftime.

The Fighting Saints extended their scoring streak to an 8-0 run to start the third quarter with two Jamie Pickens buckets. Pickens, Geritz, Addi Ekstrom and Kyndall Keller combined to score 18 third-quarter points to give the lead back to Carroll, 37-36, going to the fourth.

After another Pickens bucket to start the fourth, Providence's Ashlee Maldonado made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 39-39 with 9:13 remaining. The teams stayed within two points of each other over the next six-plus minutes until Maddy Dixon and Monique Carter scored four straight points to give the Argos a 50-46 lead with 2:48 to play.

Carroll wouldn't get closer than two points the rest of the way, with Providence icing the game at the free throw line. Carter, Pimperton and Maldonado each went 2 for 2 at the free throw line down the stretch. As a team, the Argos made 13 of 15 free throws in the game.

Maldonado finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists, and Dixon had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive end. Pimperton had 11 points and four rebounds, Carter added six points and six assists, and Keanna Salave'a had seven points and six rebounds.

"Obviously we're a young team and we got a couple of new players," Maldonado said. "But I mean, I'm just so proud of this team. We knew it was in front of us and we said one day at a time and I have no words right now, I'm just so happy."

Kyndall Keller led Carroll with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Pickens had 16 points and 16 rebounds, giving her 2,000 points and a Carroll-record 1,035 rebounds for her career. Geritz also had 16 points.

Keller, Pickens and Geritz are all seniors, and Saints head coach Rachelle Sayers bid them an emotional farewell in the locker room after the game.

"I just told my seniors thank you. They gave up a lot to give us one more chance at this," said Sayers. "You know, I'm sorry I couldn't help them to get to one more game for everything they've given to me, to this team. I just love this team. I love that group of seniors, they made this year so enjoyable. And it's just, it's really tough to know that I'm not going to be walking in practice Monday morning and seeing those guys."

Neither team shot particularly well in the defensive battle, with Providence making 19 of 57 shots from the floor and Carroll making 23 of 59. Providence was 7 of 23 from 3-point range, while Carroll was 3 of 15.

Monday's game was the fifth of the season between Providence and Carroll. The Saints won two of three during the regular season, while the Argos won the Frontier Conference tournament championship.

The Argo program was once an afterthought in the NAIA, but head coach Bill Himmelberg has steadily built the program into a national contender, and competing for a title is the next step.

"It's built on the backs of all those players that came when we weren't very good and built the culture of our program. The culture isn't something that happens in one day or one year," Himmelberg said. "It's something that happens over a number of years. And those girls were the ones who made the culture winning."

Providence will meet Dordt (Iowa), which defeated Cumberlands (Ky.) 83-73 in the other semifinal Monday, for the national title at 6 p.m. (MDT) Tuesday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.

Dordt also features a Montana connection. Manhattan Christian graduate Eliana Kuperus is a junior for the Defenders and had two points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal in the win over Cumberlands.