FRANKFORT, KY -- Close games were the norm at the Frankfort Convention Center on the second day of the first round of the NAIA National Women’s Basketball Tournament. Roger’s St. (OK) started the day off with a 9AM tip versus Our Lady of the Lake (TX) and 79-69 win. What followed was slugfest after slugfest, making for an exciting day of nail biting March tournament basketball.
No. 6 Faulkner (AL) 67, No. 3 Xavier (LA) 63
In a game that featured No. 6 seed Faulkner knocking off No. 3 seed Xavier, Faulkner held on after watching a large early 2nd half led trimmed to three multiple times. Xavier used intense full court pressure to overwhelm the Faulkner guards turning them over multiple times. With 2:35 Xavier cut it to 3 one last time but a few possessions later Faulkner senior center 6-3 Brittany Carter pinned her man deep in the paint and completed a three-point play that put Xavier away for good. Carter finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Coach Reed Sutton said about Carter “She validated her being an All-American” and “she was as good as advertised”.
No. 2 Westminster (UT) 69, No. 7 St. Catherine’s (KY) 55
St. Catherine’s star Janae Howard came out ballin’ early, showing why she played for Louisville and Western Kentucky earlier in her career. Howard posted 17 points in the game and seven on the board in the first half as Westminster’s best post player Cydney Tibbitts was saddled with foul trouble. St. Catherine’s led at the break but Westminster’s unselfish play and stellar ball movement, slowly but surely brought them back. They outscored St. Catherine’s 42-22 in the second but didn’t pull away until late and with Howard on the floor it never seemed over until the final minute. Westminster coach Shelley Jarrard when asked what adjustments were made at halftime said “no adjustments were made; we were able to get our starters back in and go toe-to-toe with their starters.”
No. 1 Westmont (CA) 63, No. 8 University of the Cumberlands (KY) 58
In true nail biter fashion, Westmont led by one at halftime and barely hung on to beat the No. 8 seed Cumberlands. Westmont, which features two of the best players in the NAIA National Tournament in Tugce Canitez and Esther Lee, faced a tough battle against the balanced scoring attack of the Cumberlands. Canitez, who starred at North Idaho Community College two years ago, leading them to the NJCAA D-1 National title, had 27 points and 12 rebounds. She hit big free throw after big free throw down the stretch finishing 17-for-18 from the charity stripe.
No. 1 Lubbock Christian (Tx) 78, No. 8 Southern University at New Orleans (La) 57
In a No. 1 seed vs No. 8 seed match up, generally a close game is not what is expected. Lubbock Christian jumped out to a 27-17 lead with 7:43 remaining in the first half, but April Perry wasn’t ready to go down yet. Sabrina Scott hit a layup to get SUNO within eight, and then Perry scored the game’s next eight points to bring the game to a 27-27 tie with 2:00 to go in the first half. However, Lubbock Christian would go on a run of its own finishing the first half on a 10-1 run to take a 37-28 lead into the locker room. The Chaps never looked back from that moment on dominating the second half behind Nicole Hampton’s triple-double. Hampton finished with 11 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists. Hampton was quick to give her teammates credit for the big win saying, “Everyone just passed the ball and shared the ball really well, a team is hard to stop when five players work out as one.”
No. 2 Cumberland (Tn) 59, No. 7 Coastal Georgia (Ga) 47
While Cumberland was looking to advance to the second round of the tournament for the first time since 2009, Coastal Georgia is only in the second year of their women’s basketball program. This No. 2 seed versus No. 7 seed match up was definitely an exciting one, while Coastal Georgia won the battle on the boards in the first half 22-to-15, Cumberland lead 26-21 at the half. The Mariners had turnover problems, which lead to them trailing at the end of the first half. Jessica Pace took over the scoring for Cumberland in the second half, 11 of her 17 points came after halftime. Cumberland eventually took a 42-33 lead with 7:45 to go in the game; Coastal Carolina would trim the deficit to six with 5:45 to go. The Bulldogs just had too much firepower for the Mariners to stop, and they took the game 59-47. When asked about the game Cumberland Coach Jeremy Lewis replied, “It was a great basketball game, we knew it was going to be physical and that’s something that we worked on for the last week, being able to play through a lot of physical type of play in these tournament situations, the officials are going to let them go after each other, and it was important for our kids to be able to play through it more so than the other teams. We didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half, second half we shot it better, made plays for each other and I’m glad we’re moving on to the next game.”
No. 4 Georgetown (Ky) 66 - No. 5 Lyon (Ar) 55
This game didn’t have the “big name” players of the other games but, both of these teams play very well together, and both teams absolutely get after it and give it their all. Lyon took the lead 11-10 with 13:00 minutes remaining in the first half after a back-and-forth first seven minutes, and didn’t look back for the rest of the half. Lyon’s lead got to be as big as six but Georgetown cut it to one right before halftime. Andrea Howard caught fire in the second half, starting the half with an old-fashioned three-point play to give her team the lead for the first time in thirteen minutes of play. After that, Georgetown never trailed again on their way to a 66-55 Tiger win. Andrea Howard finished the game with 24 points, going 7-for-12 from the field, and 8-for-9 from the free-throw line. Phagen Altom lead Lyon with 17 points.
No. 3 Benedictine (Ks) 81 - No. 6 Bethel (Tn) 74
This game came down to who shot the ball better, Benedictine connected on six three-pointers in the first half, while Bethel connected on three. Bethel managed was shooting 40% from the floor at halftime but, Benedictine shot 48%. The Ravens lead the Wildcats 42-32 at the half behind Erin Murphy’s eight points. Benedictine stretched their lead to double-digits and Bethel was able to fight back to within seven in the second half but a big three-pointer by Kelsey Anselmi with 2:15 to go to build the lead back to 11 was the nail in the coffin. The Wildcats fell just short in a wild, and high scoring game that saw Benedictine win 81-74 to advance to the quarterfinals. Perica Glenn lead the Wildcats in points and rebounds with 21 and 14 respectively, and Liz Stinson lead the Ravens with 17 points.
John McGraw is the coach at Fisk University and the founder of Insider Exposure, a circuit of NCAACertified Events. The Insider Exposure website is located at insiderexposure.wordpress.com. You can follow McGraw on twitter @CoachJohnMcGraw
Trevor Goodson assists McGraw at Fisk and is the director of operations for Insider Exposure. You can follow Goodson on Twitter, @CousinTrevvv