It took sensational scoring nights from Lavanda Ross and Amy Philamlee for the Union University Lady Bulldogs to distance themselves from the frisky eighth-seeded Blue Raiders of Lindsey Wilson.
Union defeated Lindsey Wilson 63-50 in the first round of the NAIA Div. I Women’s Basketball National Championship Thursday night at the Frankfort Convention Center.
Ross led the Lady Bulldogs with a game-high 25 points while Philamlee chipped in 18, all on 3-pointers.
The scoring outbursts came as no surprise to Union coach Mark Campbell.
“We’ve been a team all year that different people have stepped up and helped Lavanda,” he said. “This was Amy’s night. Amy’s been our second-leading scorer all year and she’s our best recruit from last year, so it doesn’t surprise me.”
The coach also had high praise for Ross, who shot an impressive 73 percent from the field.
“Lavanda doesn’t care if she ever gets credit,” Campbell said. “When your only senior acts like that, it’s a pretty big deal.”
The game was close early as Union led only 18-14 with six minutes remaining in the first half.
The Lady Bulldogs used four 3-pointers from Philamlee and four points from Ross to keep Lindsey Wilson at arm’s length for the rest of the half and held a 34-27 lead at halftime.
Union outpaced the Blue Raiders in the second half behind a steady dose of scoring from Ross and Philamlee and opened up a 20-point lead, 58-38, with 6:08 left to play.
The Union lead didn’t drop below 17 until the final two minutes when Lindsey Wilson closed the game on a 7-point run. Ashley Rainey led the Blue Raiders with 15 points.
Campbell said shutting down Rainey in the second half allowed his team to pull away late.
“I thought we hit some shots and defended Rainey in the second half better than I thought was possible,” he said. “Only four points for her in the second half is a big deal.”
Despite the lopsided final, Campbell said the Blue Demons gave his team all it could handle.
“This is the toughest first round game we’ve ever drawn,” he said. “I think we had to play the best eight seed. They could’ve been a six or seven seed.”
Union plays Xavier tonight at 9:45 p.m.
Langston 76, Columbia 64
The third-seeded Langston Lionesses held off the sixth-seeded Columbia Lady Cougars in the first game of the late session Thursday, taking home a 76-64 victory.
Shontice Simmons came up huge for the Lionesses as she dropped in a game-high 25 points and snagged a team-high nine rebounds. Tayla Vaughn was the other double-digit scorer for Langston with 11.
Columbia also had two players in double figures – Ashley Fisher with 23 and Heather English with 13.
The Lionesses dominated the first half, shooting 16-of-33 (49 percent) and knocking five 3-pointers to secure a commanding 46-26 lead at halftime.
Langston was up 64-41 when the Lady Cougars finally made a run and outscored the Lionesses 15-4 during the final seven minutes. Sadly for Columbia, it was too little, too late.
Langston plays Biola tonight at 8 p.m.
Xavier 74, Southern Nazarene 67
As a basketball team, it’s hard to win a tournament game while committing 25 turnovers.
Just ask the Southern Nazarene Crimson Storm, who did just that and lost 74-67 to Xavier Thursday.
The staggering number of turnovers wiped out a dominant performance on the boards by Southern Nazarene. The Crimson Storm outrebounded the Gold Nuggets 47-31 in the game.
Xavier won despite having just two players in double figures compared to four for Southern Nazarene. SiMon Franklin led the Gold Nuggets with a game-high 16 while Brandi Young chipped in 11.
Southern Nazarene was paced by Logan Martin and Oumoul Thiam, who both scored 14. Also in double figures were Sharmeda Johnson with 13 and Abbey Marra with 10.
The Crimson Storm trailed by as many as 10 in the first half before tying things at 31 with 5:29 left until halftime. The Gold Nuggets ended the half on an 8-5 run to lead 39-36 at the break.
Xavier took control four minutes into the second half when a bucket by Keldra Hall gave the Crimson Storm a 42-41 advantage. It was a lead Xavier would never relinquish despite the best efforts of the Gold Nuggets, who twice cut their deficit to one.
Biola 69, Lee 66
Another day, another seven seed upsetting a two seed.
A day after Rogers State shocked Cumberlands in OT, seventh-seeded Biola defeated second-seeded Lee 69-66 and earned a date in the second round against Langston.
The Eagles pulled off the upset with help from a trio of players who all scored 15 points – Chelsea Hill, Adijat Adams and Charrise Reece.
The Lady Flames stayed in the game thanks to a phenomenal performance by Hollie German, who scored a game-high 34 points and dished out a team-high three assists.
The first half was a seesaw affair that saw three ties and four lead changes. When the halftime buzzer sounded, Biola held a 32-29 lead.
Biola dominated the second half and led by as many as 12 before Lee closed the final two minutes on a 9-2 run to make the score 67-66 with seven seconds left.
The Lady Flames fouled Hill after Madison Lee’s bucket cut the Biola lead to one and Hill converted both freebies. Lee wasn’t able to get off a final shot in the remaining time.