SPRINGFIELD, MO. - Alyssa Colla has accomplished a lot this season.
She was a first-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection and became the 23rd player in program history to score 1,000 career points.
But what Colla wanted more than anything was to experience the thrill of victory in the NCAA Division II tournament.
That opportunity was ripped away by Quincy on Friday night in the quarterfinal round of the Midwest Regional at the O'Reilly Center in Springfield, however. The Wildcats, winners of 10 consecutive games coming into this postseason battle, were the victim of a furious rally by the Hawks, who fought back to earn a 65-58 victory in overtime.
"It's real tough to lose," said Colla, a junior guard who sat at a table in a post-game press conference and fought through the disappointment of the loss as she talked about the game. "We had a pretty big lead and let it get away. But overall, we had a great season."
It was indeed a great season for the Wildcats (22-8), but it could have been even better had they been able to hold on against the Hawks (22-6).
NMU led 30-21 at halftime and were up 37-21 with 18:25 to play after Colla scored on a layup.
But the Hawks roared back, capitalizing on missed opportunities by the Wildcats and knocking down shots when it mattered most.
Maggie Cunningham drilled back-to-back treys that sliced the NMU lead to 50-46 with 5:50 left and a jumper by Lucy Cramsey tied the score at 52-52 with 2:57 to go.
Nea Makela hit a free throw to put the Wildcats back up by one at 53-52 before Cramsey tied the score at 53-53.
The Wildcats had several chances to nail down the win, but three missed shots from beyond the arc left the score tied at 53-53 at the end of regulation.
Hannah Weedman gave the Hawks a 58-55 lead as she nailed a trey from the corner but NMU senior Annie Rubendunst responded with a trey to tie the score at 58-58.
Two free throws by Cramsey gave QU the lead for good and NMU never scored again as its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2010 came to an end on a March night in Missouri.
"You hope your players get this chance when you build a program," NMU head coach Troy Mattson said. "The hardest thing to do is get here, and it's rewarding that our team was able to get here. We would have liked to advance, but someone has to win and someone has to lose."
One of the differences in the game was the switch the Hawks made on defense in the second half as it put together their comeback.
"I thought we played great in the first half, but Quincy took a chance in the second half and switched to a zone," Mattson said. "We knew it would happen at some point because we didn't think they could handle us man-to-man. We had some opportunities, but they didn't go our way. They made the big plays at the end. Give them credit."
The Wildcats shot 33.9 percent (21-of-62) from the field and got 20 points out of Rubendunst. Colla finished with 18 points. No one else scored in double figures for NMU.
The Wildcats, champions of the GLIAC tournament, struggled early, missing on their first three attempts from the field and having another possession end with a shot clock violation.
On the flip side, NMU was tough defensively, holding the Hawks scoreless through the first five minutes of action, forcing four turnovers along the way.
But the fourth-seeded Wildcats finally got rolling and led 23-12 after Colla scored on a layup and drew a foul. Her free throw gave NMU its first double-digit lead of the game.
The fifth-seeded Hawks never quit, though, and behind 23 points from Cramsey and 10 out of Felisha Loggins, rallied for the win. QU shot 38.3 percent (23-of-60) from the field.
Although the tournament run ended in disappointment for the Wildcats, Rubendunst, one of two seniors on the roster - Katie Becker is the other one - said she is happy with the experience of playing in the NCAA tourney.
"It was a great experience," Rubendunst said. "I couldn't be more proud of this team. We came up short at the end, but we had a great year."