Coming off a 2-0 record last week, BR-16 Wheaton moved up three spots to No. 14 in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) NCAA Division III Top 25 Coaches Poll, and after a 72-66 victory over BR-72 North Park set up a three way knot with the Vikings and BR-86 Illinois Wesleyan at the top of the powerful College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin standings.
Three of the eight weeks the CCIW has handed down Player of the Week honors thus far this season, a Thunder player has taken the nod.
Junior guard Katie McDaniels took the first POW tag back in November. She was named the tournament MVP at Wheaton's Beth Baker Classic in wins over BR-313 St. Mary's (IN) and BR-237 Defiance. She totaled 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, five rebounds, one steal and six assists in the 79-63 win over Defiance, then tallied 15 points, three rebounds, four steals and three assists in the 91-42 win over St. Mary's. Then, to follow, she added seven points, five rebounds, nine assists and three steals in a 72-42 win at BR-217 Aurora.
For her follow-up POW award in December, McDaniels helped lead the Thunder to another unbeaten. She scored Wheaton's final four points and recorded a steal in the final 11 seconds during the Thunder’s 67-64 win at BR-39 Loras. She totaled 24 points against the Duhawks on 8-of-12 shooting from the field including 2-of-2 from three-point range and she added four assists and three steals. In the Thunder’s second win on the week, she totaled 11 points, three assists and two steals in a 68-52 win at BR-225 Dubuque.
Ellie Zeller was also tabbed CCIW Player of the Week in early December. Zeller, a senior guard, helped lead the Thunder to a pair of wins on a west coast road trip. She totaled 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and three blocks in a 77-61 win over BR-95 Chapman, and followed with 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and four steals in an 88-50 win over BR-266 Pomona-Pitzer.
Recently, the Thunder have put together a three-game run, bouncing back from a pair of losses to BR-12 Wartburg, and their CCIW opener against BR-121 Augustana. After topping IWU 72-66 on January 6, with McDaniels scoring a game-high 19 points and seven assists, senior center Hannah Considine stepped up and tallied a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds, along with sophomore forward Jennifer Berg setting career highs with 16 points and 10 rebounds in a 78-67 win over BR-84 North Central (IL) on January 9.
The stage was set for a showdown with BR-72 North Park. The Thunder used consistent play to come away with a 57-52 victory, handing the Vikings their first CCIW loss of the season. Wheaton moved to 11-3 on the season, and 3-1 in CCIW play, joining both North Park and IWU with identical CCIW records.
McDaniels led the Thunder with 17 points and six assists. Chantal Meacham added 12 points, draining three shots from three-point land. Meacham also contributed two assists and two steals. Sophomore Kelly Lawson and Considine each scored eight points for the hosts. Considine led the Thunder with nine rebounds, while freshman Devin Kyler and Lawson each collected eight boards. McDaniel’s six assists puts her into ninth place on Wheaton's all-time assists list with 28.
Wheaton shot 36.4% (20-of-55) from the field, including 43.8% (7-for-16) from three-point range. The Vikings posted a 26.2% (16-of-61) field goal percentage, with 45.5% (5-for-11) behind the three-point arc. Wheaton shot 66.7% (10-of-15) from the free throw line and North Park had a 93.8% (15-of-16) effort at the charity stripe. Each team collected 41 rebounds in the game with North Park holding a 16-12 edge on the offensive glass.
The Thunder will return to action on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. when they travel to BR-62 Elmhurst for a CCIW matchup with the Bluejays.