Wednesday, March 17, 1999

Kelsey leads NKU women into Elite Eight

Norse play Indiana (Pa.) tonight

Enquirer contributor

        In this season of superlatives, the Northern Kentucky University women's basketball team has reached the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the second time in school history.

        En route to tonight's quarterfinal game against 24th-ranked Indiana University (Pa.) at Pine Bluff, Ark., No. 9 NKU has registered numerous achievements and honors. The Norse boast the nation's top three-point shooter in Michelle Tuchfarber as well as the Great Lakes Valley Conference Freshman of the Year Michelle Cottrell and Coach of the Year Nancy Winstel. A handful of team and individual records have been broken on the way to a 29-2 overall record.

        But it is senior Katie Kelsey — without grabbing the headlines — who has been the undisputed leader of this team that is currently riding a 21-game winning streak.

        She scores less than six points a game, and grabs just three rebounds. But her value to the Norse goes far beyond statistics.

        “I guess I do a lot of things that people wouldn't notice just by reading the box score,” said Kelsey, a four-year starter. “Like any point guard, I don't look to score unless I really need to. I just go out and play like I'm the court general.”

        Kelsey added that she has always been surrounded by players who can do the scoring, both at NKU the last four years, and in her four-year varsity career at Roger Bacon High School that culminated in a 1995 state championship.

        Kelsey has played all 40 minutes in seven games this season, and 39 minutes three other times. Sometime during the second half of tonight's game, Kelsey will set the school's career record for minutes played, now held by Peggy Vincent, whose 1,109-minute tenure ended in 1979. And each assist she adds to her current total of 505 sets a career mark in that category.

        “Katie has been a tremendous part of our success here,” Winstel said. “When she came here as a freshman, I basically handed her the ball, and she has played so many minutes every year. She's done everything we've asked her to do.”

        Winstel said Kelsey's big-game experience has rubbed off on the younger players, and that the point guard will be able to keep things loose in the high-pressure atmosphere of the Elite Eight.

        “I sleep better at night knowing I've got a senior point guard like Katie in charge,” Winstel said. “In high school, she played in two state championship games in packed houses at St. John Arena. She can handle anything you throw at her.”

        Senior teammate Shannon Smith added that if she could pick anyone to run the point when the stakes are high, it would be Kelsey.

        “She's not only the leader in getting us into our offense, but she's also good at keeping everybody focused,” Smith said. “It's a calm feeling out there knowing she's handling the ball. In playing with her for four years, I think I've only seen her stripped of the ball one time.”

        A win tonight would put the Norse in the semifinals against No. 23 Montana State-Billings or No. 17 Arkansas Tech.