Small College Sports

CPU grad Arika Wooldridge rediscovers love of basketball with Kirkwood

Eagles rout Southwestern in NJCAA regional quarterfinal, 95-31

CEDAR RAPIDS — Arika Wooldridge was sure her basketball days were over.

After her stellar prep career ended two years ago with a first team all-state honor with Center Point-Urbana, a frustrating freshman season at Division-II Winona State (Minn.) University left Wooldridge seeking direction.

“I actually wasn’t going to play,” said Wooldridge, who helped top-seeded Kirkwood blow out Southwestern, 95-31, in an NJCAA Division II regional quarterfinal Wednesday at Johnson Hall. “I just visited, I talked to (Kirkwood) Coach (Kim) Muhl because my dad had known him for a really long time. He kind of talked me into playing again and made me love the game again. That’s how I ended up here.”

Wooldridge scored 10 points with five baskets in seven attempts and added three assists off the bench for the Eagles (29-3), winners of 19 games in a row.

“Just confidence,” Muhl said when asked about improvement in Wooldridge. “She knows she can score, she knows she’s part of it. She’s gotten comfortable and happy. That’s the biggest thing with kids is they’re comfortable and happy and feel like they’re part of something that is good, and she is.”

Turns out, being "comfortable and happy" for Wooldridge meant being able to look in the stands and see the support of family and friends, something scarce while playing a state away.

“Being closer to home and being closer to family was a big thing for me,” Wooldridge said. “I didn’t think it was going to be a huge difference going three hours from home, but it actually was.”

Wooldridge continues to flash the rewards of her rediscovered confidence. The 6-foot-2 sophomore post player has five double-figure scoring efforts in her last 12 games after just four in her first 20.


“When I get the ball, it’s my job to make a move down there and make plays,” said Wooldridge, who plans to enter the elementary education program at UNI next year barring an enticing basketball offer.

Freshman reserve post Mackenzie Jenkins led the Eagles with 14 points, while sophomore guard Tayana Wilson added 13 points with a game-high four assists and three steals.

Former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep Olivia Usher added 10 points and six rebounds.

Kirkwood — ranked second in the latest NJCAA Division-II poll — will host a regional semifinal against fourth-seeded Southeastern (22-9) Saturday at 1 p.m. The winner plays Sunday for a berth in the national tournament, where the Eagles are the defending champions.

“You can play bad and you’re done,” Muhl said. “That’s the nature of the beast we play with. Hopefully we’ll be ready to go and our depth will prevail.”

Women’s basketball



Kirkwood 95, Southwestern 31

SOUTHWESTERN (31): T’Keyah Stapleton 0-8 0-0 0, Jasmine Aviles 3-11 1-2 7, Keaundra Washington 3-12 2-2 11, Tina Lair-Van Meter 2-4 2-2 6, Vanessa Romo 1-8 0-0 3, Raeven Hayes 1-3 0-0 2, Chelsey Trautloff 1-4 0-0 2, Kierra Brice 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 11-51 5-6 31.

KIRKWOOD (95): Tayana Wilson 5-11 0-0 13, Christmas Puok 3-5 0-0 7, Megan Axcell 2-3 0-0 6, Olivia Usher 4-7 2-2 10, Mackenzie Jenkins 4-9 4-4 14, Jahnisha Brown 2-2 0-0 4, Anasha Hurst 3-5 0-0 7, Niaja Taylor 2-3 2-4 6, Leah Robinson 1-3 2-3 4, Haley Mullinnix 2-5 0-0 5, Brianna Mensen 3-5 0-0 6, Arika Wooldridge 5-7 0-0 10, Totals 37-70 11-15 95.

Southwestern 9 9 11 2—31

Kirkwood 25 22 24 24—95

Halftime — Kirkwood, 47-18. Three-point goals — Southwestern 4-22 (Washington 3-10, Romo 1-5, Hayes 0-1, Trautloff 0-2, Stapleton 0-4), Kirkwood 10-21 (Wilson 3-6, Axcell 2-2, Jenkins 2-3, Puok 1-1, Hurst 1-2, Mullinnix 1-3, Taylor 0-1, Mensen 0-1, Ajak 0-2). Rebounds — Southwestern 16 (Aviles 4, Lair-Van Meter 4), Kirkwood 50 (Robinson 7). Assists — Southwestern 6 (Aviles 3), Kirkwood 26 (Wilson 4, Taylor 4). Turnovers — Southwestern 17, Kirkwood 7. Total fouls — Southwestern 8, Kirkwood 8. Fouled out — None.

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