SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Two players on opposite ends of the floor had huge scoring nights Tuesday in their quarterfinal matchup. In the end, it was Darsha Burnside’s 27 points and 16 rebounds that helped propel California Baptist to its first semifinals in school history with an 86-77 victory against New Haven.
Burnside’s 27 points was just two shy of her career high set earlier this year.
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“We didn’t come this far to lose,” Burnside said. “I really wanted it. I’m playing with some confidence and going out every day and practicing hard. I was just feeling it all night.”
For New Haven, Aquillin Hayes was nearly unstoppable. She scored a career-high 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting. She also added ten rebounds for her 13th double-double of the season. Over four NCAA tournament games this season, she’s averaging 20.5 points per game, but Tuesday’s performance against Cal Baptist was clearly her best.
“I always feel it,” said Hayes when asked if this was just one of those nights where she was “feeling it” from the floor. “It’s either going to go in, or it’s not. Tonight, it was just going in. But, we just came up short.”
With Cal Baptist leading 69-61 and under seven minutes to play, the Lancers looked to be in good shape. But Hayes scored 11 of her 32 in the final five minutes and New Haven got it to within two with three minutes and 30 seconds to play.
“We got some easy baskets in the second half, just from running the floor, which I think that was probably the difference in the game,” Cal Baptist coach Jarrod Olson said. “We shot the ball well in the second half, but that was mostly because we were able to get the ball in some advantageous spots.”
After New Haven got close, the Lancers closed it out on an 11-4 run. Although she was a major factor for most of the night, Burnside was held scoreless in the final five minutes during Cal Baptist’s final run to put it away.
The Lancers start three underclassmen, but the magnitude of the situation doesn’t seem to be affecting Cal Baptist.
“We’ll just wing it,” said sophomore Courtney Nelson, who finished with 19 points and eight rebounds for the Lancers. “I just go out and play my hardest. Whatever happens, happens. Our team is so close and we just rely on each other. I trust in my teammates that if I’m not doing well, it’s not a big deal. I guess that lowers the nerves for me because I trust my team so much.”
The jitters could have been the reason for the 21 Lancers turnovers, but in the end, New Haven didn’t make them pay, scoring just 18 points off of the miscues.
“Yeah, we’re a pretty young team,” Olson said. “We’ve got a lot of young people on the floor and it’s their first time to play in an NCAA tournament. Being at the Elite Eight is a new level and there are a lot of unknowns because we’re seeing teams we’ve never seen before. That might have caused some anxiety because that always happens when there is that unknown. But I expect them to come out and play well tomorrow.”