The Mastodons (13-16) overcame numerous obstacles – like their top two players (Amanda Hyde and Erin Murphy) fouling out – in a thrilling 106-101 double-overtime win.
IPFW advances to play top-seed South Dakota State (23-7) today at 1 p.m. (EDT).
“Basketball is a funny sport,” Paul said in a release. “Sometimes you win games played in the 40s and sometimes you have to find a way to win a game in the 100s. I have to give a lot of credit to Western (Illinois) and coach JD (Gravina), who has done a tremendous job with them and they have a good basketball team. I thought they played extremely well. But I am awfully proud of the way our kids responded.”
IPFW got an incredible physical performance from sophomore Haley Seibert, in light of the Mastodons’ losing the reigning conference player of the year (Hyde) and all-league performer (Murphy) to fouls.
“I've been a part of a lot of games where something like that happens,” Gravina said. “Their mentality is that someone else has to step up. As you know, basketball is a team sport and when you have five people on the floor trying to step up their game that can be really dangerous. You have to give them a lot of credit."
Seibert’s performance was one for the ages.
She played all 50 minutes of the game (as did teammate Rachel Mauk) and scored a career-best 33 points. Even in the final minutes, Seibert continued to excel.
The Terre Haute native connected on a lay-in to put the Mastodons up 104-101 late in the second overtime, and followed that effort with a steal. Seibert closed the deal with a rebound of a Leatherneck (14-16) miss.
"My teammates did a really good job of hitting me when I was open,” Seibert said. “Before the game, coach (Kip) Jones worked with me and he said, 'You need to push the ball and control the game when you can.' So, I did and that really helped out."
Seibert sank 9 of her 16 shots and was 11 of 12 from the free throw line. She wasn’t alone in performing well in that latter category.
IPFW sank 20 of its 24 free throw attempts, while Western Illinois missed eight times from the line. The Mastodons also bombed the Leathernecks for 14 3-pointers.
"I have never been accused of not liking to shoot threes,” Paul said. “I just believe as a shooter, you have to believe and shoot the basketball. One thing we have taught our kids; if you are open shoot the basketball. And, you know they did that. We wanted an aggressive mentality in the first half and Rachel (Mauk) got us going shooting threes."
Rachel Mauk added 19 points and nine boards, while her sister, Stefanie, finished with 11 points.
Hyde totaled 19 points (with 10 rebounds) in the win, while Murphy finished with 20 points and five assists.
Seibert also dished out a team-best five assists.
"I am amazed at what they did with some of them playing 50, 47 minutes,” Paul said. “I am really proud of how hard they played for that long of time and in that pressure situation. Now we are down to four (teams in tournament) and we will see what happens."