FRANKFORT, KY -- Though there were some minor upsets in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament in Frankfort, KY, the second round followed according to plan. All first and second seeds advanced to the final 8 of the tournament. The talent on the top teams is obvious with uber-talented players and coaches making their marks. University of Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell was on hand as was WNBA Star Taj McWilliams-Franklin checking out her daughter, Shawnee St. senior Schera Sampson.
No. 2 Lee (TN) 63, No. 6 Carroll (MT) 49
In a game that featured the poise and strength of Carroll versus the depth and firepower of Lee, it was Lee’s depth which proved to be too much for the Saints. The Saints led early by as much as seven but only got contributions from Bailey Snelling and Torrie Cahill who combined for 19 of Carroll’s 23 first half-points. On a roster with four NCAA D-1 transfers it was the homegrown talent (Snelling and Cahill) doing most of the damage for the Montana school. Lee led 24-23 at the half, but played significant stretches without their two two stars, Jenna Adams and Hollie German. In the second half German showed why she was the Southern State Conference Player of the Year finishing with 21 points and helping extend the Lee lead to 14 with 2:59 to go.
No. 1 Oklahoma City (OK) 56, No. 5 Shawnee St. (OH) 54
Oklahoma City, the defending NAIA National Champs, looked like they were going to roll early. Lauren Gober, Co-Conference Player of the Year in the Sooner Athletic Conference, hit a three to put OCU up 14-9 then had a lay up to extend the lead to 16-9, which was the beginning of a 20-to-1 run extending the lead to 29-10. Oklahoma City defense was stifling holding Shawnee without a basket from 13:20 until :32. At the half it was 31-13 and seemingly over but Shawnee State forward Schera Sampson had other ideas. The daughter of WNBA star, Taj McWilliams-Franklin went to work on the block and from the elbow and junior Alannah Sheets got hot from the outside. A Sheets three-ball at 2:13 cut the Oklahoma City lead to two (55-53) and a free throw by Sampson a few moments later made it a one point game. Sampson missed the second free throw and Oklahoma hung on for the win. Gober finished with 16 for the Stars while Oklahoma State transfer Desiree Jeffries finished with 10. Head Coach Latricia Trammell said following the win, “I was pleased with the first half, not pleased in the second but we did what it took to get the W(in). We took (the lead) for granted, we came out in the second half flat, not communicating, not moving defensively like we were in the first half.”
No. 2 Westminster (UT) 66, No. 6 Faulkner (AL) 60
What looked like an upset in the making, fell short when Faulkner star center Brittany Carter fouled out with 2:47 to go with her team up by one. Without Carter in the game Faulkner had no answer for the passing and ball movement of Westminster who cruised, finishing the game on a 16-9 run. Westminster struggled to score in the first half when Carter controlled the paint but in the second half things opened up as she was saddled with foul trouble. Assistant Coach Elaine Elliott formerly the Head Coach at Utah provided poise and guidance down the stretch during a key timeout with :35 seconds left up by three with the ball. Westminster got solid contributions from Nicole Yazzie and Cydney Tibbitts finishing with 15 and 16 respectively.
No. 1 Westmont (CA) 77, No. 4 Rogers St. (OK) 70
Westmont and reigning WBCA NAIA National Player of the Year Tugce Canitez started out hot and never looked back. Tugce hit a key three to start the scoring for Westmont and they led 16-2 before Ariani Silva’s three with 5:30 to go pulled Rogers within two at 23-21. Westmont then closed the half on a 15-4 run to lead 38-25. Canitez never let down and came out as hot in the second half as she was in the first, in fact her 18 points and 11 rebounds in the second half alone propelled Westmont to double digit lead most of the second half, pushing the lead to 18 with 6:15 to go. Rogers State fought hard until the end but it was too much Tugce Canitez, who finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds. After the game Canitez commented on the game “(Rogers State) was a really good team, our coaches got us ready for them and my teammates did a really great job today.”
No. 2 Vanguard (CA) 85, No. 6 William Woods (MO) 60
In a day where most games were close, and hard fought, this game was an exception. Vanguard just had too much offensive firepower for William Woods to stop. William Woods took the first lead of the game at 3-0 but once Vanguard struck back with a 14-1 run, they never looked back. At the half Vanguard had already knocked down seven threes, and WWU had only knocked down one. The Lions built their lead to as much as 31 en route to an 85-60 win. Vanguard finished the game 12-23, 52%, from deep. Nicole Ballestero lead the Lions in scoring with 25, while Chelsea Alfafara went 5-8 from three and had 17 points and 6 assists. Priscila Santos was the leading scorer for the Owls with 25 points. When asked about the win Vanguard Coach, Russ Davis, said, “We played really well today, we did what we normally do, share the ball, we had 23 assists and 10 turnovers. We led the nation this year in assist to turnover ratio so, anytime we share the ball and play aggressive like that we’re going to be hard to beat.”
No. 1 Freed-Hardeman (TN) 71, No. 4 Campbellsville (KY) 52
Any game that features the nation’s top team is always highly anticipated, however, anyone watching this game was treated to a surprise for three-quarters of the game. The score was deadlocked going into the locker room at halftime after a trey by the Tigers’ Mrashi Karumba tied the game at 30 with 29.6 seconds. Campbellsville actually took their first lead of the game at 32-30 with 19:18 to go in the game, and would be tied at 42 with 13:46 to go. However, All-American Natalie Shumpert decided to take over and win this game. She single-handedly led her team on a 7-0 run, which was followed by back-to-back threes by Ashley Tate to extend the run to 13-0, and the lead to 55-42. Freed would explode from then on, with a 22-2 run to eventually win 71-52 to make it back to the Elite Eight for the third time in four years. Shumpert led the Lions with 21 points and her teammate Maria Bagwell finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Karumba led Campbellsville with 11 points.
Nicole Hampton guided Lubbock Christian past Georgetown with 23 points and 8 rebounds. (Photo courtesy of the NAIA)
No. 1 Lubbock Christian (TX) 93, No. 5 Georgetown (KY) 69
The Sooner Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Year, Nicole Hampton, shined bright once again in Frankfort. A day after finishing with a triple-double, she was once again a stat stuffer, leading her team to a convincing win over Georgetown. The Tigers were within two just before halftime after a 10-0 run helped them keep it close, the Chaps would eventually go into the locker room up 40-34. Hampton started the second half with a huge three, which would put her team up by 9, and Lubbock Christian took off from there. The Chaps lead would grow to as much as 24 on their way to out-scoring Georgetown 53-35 in the second half. Lubbock Christian advances to the Elite Eight for the third straight year with a 93-69 win. Hampton led the Lady Chaparrals with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists while Kelsey Canavan had 21 points for LCU. Devon Golden and Lizza Jonas led the Tigers with 14 points each, and Kourtney Tyra finished with 11 points and 9 assists. Hampton was quick to give her coaches and teammates credit for the big win saying, “Something that Coach Gomez always preaches, is just share the ball, make the extra pass, and it will pay off. I think our team has really just inherited that if you make the extra pass it leads to an easier shot, and sharing the ball is hard to guard.”
No. 2 Cumberland (TN) 65, No. 3 Benedictine (KS) 54
With Cumberland looking for their first NAIA Elite Eight appearance since 2007, and Benedictine looking for their first ever Elite Eight appearance in school history, this was bound to be an intense game in which both teams gave it their all. The Bulldogs led 31-27 at halftime despite giving up eight offensive rebounds and 24 total rebounds. Three of Cumberland’s top four players were on the bench with foul trouble for a good portion of the first half, but they were able to take advantage of Benedictine’s poor shooting performance. The Ravens were able to get within two with 15:35 to go, but the Bulldogs would extend their lead to 13 to finally win the game by a score of 65-54. Cumberland’s scoring was evenly distributed as Josette Campbell and Jessica Pace had 12 points each, while Briannica Tye finished with 11. Liz Stinson lead Benedictine 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