Rams start tourney trail at home vs. Grinnell
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Women's Basketball - Mon, Feb. 20, 2017

MOUNT VERNON – The Midwest Conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament will be awarded late Saturday afternoon inside Cornell's Small Multi-Sport Center.

The host Cornell Rams are the No. 1 seed of this weekend's MWC Tournament, looking to parlay an outright regular-season championship with their second trip to nationals in five years.

Cornell (19-4) meets in-state rival Grinnell (14-9) for a 5 p.m. semifinal Friday. No. 2 seed and three-time defending MWC Tournament champion St. Norbert (18-5) faces No. 3 Ripon (17-6) in the second semifinal at 7 p.m.

The championship game is 3 p.m. Saturday in Mount Vernon.

Tickets are $5. Admission is free for children 12-and-under, and for current MWC students and staff with a college ID.

The Rams are making their fifth consecutive appearance in the tournament. They've reached the championship game three of the past four years, capturing the title in 2013 to earn the program's first-ever NCAA berth.    

The Rams scooted through the MWC schedule with a 17-1 mark to secure their third regular-season championship in five years. Coach Brent Brase's squad has won six straight games, 13 of its last 14.

Cornell swept Grinnell in the regular season by scores of 56-39 and 59-52. The Rams also beat Ripon twice (69-47 and 58-55), while splitting with St. Norbert (W, 70-59 in Mount Vernon; L, 68-45 in Green Bay, Wis.).

The Rams, 11-2 on their home court this season, lead the conference in scoring offense (67.1 ppg), 3-point goals made (8.1 pg), turnover margin (+9.6 pg, fifth nationally) and steals (14.3 spg, ninth nationally). The team's 331 steals are a single-season program record.     

Cornell features two of the league's premier players in seniors Diamond Boyd (SR/Elk Grove Village, Ill.) (14.8 ppg) and Sierra Bisso (SR/Wheaton, Ill.) (14.0 ppg), who rank third and fifth, respectively, in scoring. Boyd is No. 1 in rebounding (9.0 rpg) and is tied with Bisso for the MWC lead in steals per game (3.1). Bisso has already broken the school's season record for made 3-pointers with 68.

Madie Rinehart (SR/Scottsdale, Ariz.) is the MWC leader in blocked shots (1.8 bpg), and needs just one more to become Cornell's career record holder.

Grinnell, seeking its first tourney title since 1991, tied a school record for conference wins in a season with 12. The Pioneers are led by Kayla Morrissey, the MWC's top scorer at 16.3 points per game.

Ripon enters the tournament riding a nine-game winning streak. The Red Hawks earned tourney titles in 2009, 2005 and 1996. St. Norbert, a winner of 15 of its last 16 contests, has claimed eight MWC Tournament crowns since 2003.