No. 1 Westmont (30-4) held off a barrage of late three pointers by No. 2 Lee (34-3) to claim their first ever DI NAIA National Championship 71-65 in a nationally televised game at the Franklin Center in Frankfort, Kenucky.
The Warriors were led by two-time NAIA player of the year, Tugce Canitez who posted her 17th double-double of the season with 25 points and 20 rebounds, earning the Tournament MVP honors. Teammate Kelsey Sampson, a freshman, also posted 25 points, the duo accounting for the majority of Westmont's scoring.
"This is the best year of basketball of my life," said Sampson after the win. "To be able to experience it with the most amazing players and amazing coaches is just an honor."
Lee jumped out to a 16-8 lead early on, but that was their largest of the game, they were led by Hollie German and Jenna Adams who combined for 14 of the 16 points. Westmont responded with a quick 9-0 run of its own to put the Warriors up 17-16. Adams struck again scoring 7-of-8 unanswered points for Lee, to push the lead back to seven. But Westmont closed the first half with a 15-4 run for the 34-30 lead at the break.
While Lee led for most of the first half, it was Westmont and Tugce Canitez who controlled the game, never trailing in the second half. Lee kept it close behind the play of Adams and German who combined for 46 of Lee’s 65 points but Canitez and Sampson put on a show inside the paint for Westmont pushing the lead to 11 at the 4:44 mark. However, an late 8-0 run by Lee, including back-to-back baskets by Adams and a three by German, cut the Westmont lead to 68-65 with :32.6 left in the game. But Canitez put the exclamation on the MVP award by hitting a free throw to put the Warriors up by four, and moments later sank a runner in the paint ending the scoring at 71-65 for Westmont's first national championship.
Westmont shot 47.4 percent (27-of-57) from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc and also out rebounded the Lady Flames, 45-27. Lee, who was appearing in their first national championship game, was led by German who scored 27 points, while Adams added 19.
2013 NAIA All-Tournament Team
Natalie Schumpert, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)
Hollie German, Lee (Tenn.)
Jenna Adams, Lee (Tenn.)
Nicole Ballestero, Vanguard (Calif.)
Esther Lee, Westmont (Calif.)
Jessica Pace, Cumberland (Tenn.)
Kelsey Canavan, Lubbock Christian (Texas)
Nicole Hampton, Lubbock Christian (Texas)
Lauren Gober, Oklahoma City
Cydney Tibbitts, Westminster (Utah)
Championship Most Valuable Player
Tugce Canitez, Wesmont (Calif.)
NAIA Hustle Award
Maria Bagwell, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)
Coach of the Year
Kirsten Moore, Wesmont (Calif.)
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
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