Last year, MidAmerica Nazarene University (Kan.) came into the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship on a 20-game winning streak and were one of the favorites to win it all.
So what happened? The Pioneers were ousted in the first round for the second-straight year.
“We were supposed to be the team that finally made their statement at the national tournament,” MidAmerica Nazarene coach Jon Lewis said.
It might have been a year later, but that statement was finally made.
Junior Daria Shaw and senior Kendra Flemming led five players in double figures, as No. 4 MidAmerica Nazarene used a 37-11 run to roll to a 97-64 win over No. 5 Hope International University (Calif.) in the first round of the 34th annual NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship Thursday at the Frankfort Convention Center.
“Really coming out here we wanted to show everyone that we were here to play,” said Lewis, whose team features eight seniors.
The Pioneers (24-9) advance to the second round for the first time ever and will play top-seeded Westminster College (Utah) — a 66-50 winner over No. 8 William Woods University (Mo.) Thursday — today at 6:15 p.m. The Royals (23-10) were making their first-ever appearance in the National Championship.
“I think we played pretty solid all the way until the end,” Sprew said.
Sprew had 22 points and nine rebounds, while Flemming finished with 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Pioneers.
Senior Rachel Boan (15 points, six rebounds), senior Navia Palu (13 points — 11 for 15 at foul line — nine rebounds) and sophomore Megan Balcom (10 points, five rebounds, five assists) also had nice games.
“We have great balance; we have scorers all around,” Sprew said. “It’s not easy to stop just one of us, it’s the whole team that you have to stop.”
MidAmerica Nazarene went on an 18-4 run to end the first half, then opened the second half with a 19-7 spurt to build a 20-point lead. That margin ballooned to as many as 34.
The Pioneers shot 54 percent, had just 11 turnovers and dominated on the backboards (54-38). They also held the Royals to 27-percent shooting.
“I thought the girls did a really good job executing today,” Lewis said. “We really had to switch up the things we were doing defensively.
But offensively it never changes for us: Take care of the ball, shoot a high percentage, get easy buckets.”
Senior Andrina Rendon had 17 points and seven rebounds before fouling out for the Royals.
MIDAMERICA NAZARENE (97) — Navia Palu 13, Megan Balcom 10, Kelsey Balcom 3, Rachel Boan 15, Shadequa Longus 2, Kendra Flemming 18, Kyleesha Weston 7, Brooke Rinehart 4, Martyna Kudziela 3, Daria Sprew 22.
HOPE INTERNATIONAL (64) — Brittany Bauman 2, Krystal Canning 6, Andrina Rendon 17, Alexis Perry 9, Shawna Staves 4, Krystyn Jacobs 15, Marissa Rendon 11.
SHAWNEE STATE 94, OK. BAPTIST 91 OT
Senior Alannah Sheets scored 45 points to lead Shawnee State University (Ohio) to an overtime win over Oklahoma Baptist University in the first game of the second day.
The Bears (20-12), who advanced to the second round for the fifth-straight year, will play No. 3 Wiley (Texas) today at 4:30 p.m. The Bison (28-6) lost in the first round for the first time since 2008.
The Mid-South Conference Player of the Year went 13 for 20 from the field and 16 for 22 from the foul line for the Bears. She also grabbed five rebounds. Senior Priscila Santos had 28 points and five rebounds.
Senior Jalissa Council had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Bison. Junior Elisabeth Daniels (17 points), junior Charity Fowler (14 points, eight rebounds), freshman Tasha Edge (14 points) and senior Janell Beacham (13 points) also scored in double figures.
WILEY COLLEGE 74, MOBILE 72
Freshman Alexis Bernstine and junior Bianca Davis each hit a free throw in the final minute to give Wiley College (Texas) a come-from-behind win over the University of Mobile (Ala.).
The Lady Wildcats (28-4), who trailed by nine in the second half, advance to the second round for just the second time and will play No. 7 Shawnee State University (Ohio) today at 4:30 p.m. The Rams (23-9) were making their first national championship appearance since 2006.
Junior Kayla Brown scored 19 points for the Lady Wildcats. Junior Alexia Kelley had 11 points and 11 rebounds, senior Danisha Shaw scored 11 points and Kyniddia Purdy added 10 points.
Senior Deonica McCormick had 29 points to lead the Rams.
Freshmen Sydney Westry and Kali Koenig scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.
WESTMINSTER 66, WILLIAM WOODS 50
Westminster College (Utah) used a 19-5 run in the first half and a 9-0 run in the second half to rout William Woods University (Mo.).
The Griffins (25-2) advance to the second round for the sixth-straight time and will play No. 4 MidAmerica Nazarene University (Kan.) today at 6:15 p.m. The Owls (22-11) were the final team to qualify for the National Championship.
Junior Tia Pappas had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Griffins. Senior Alli Blake finished with 19 points and six rebounds, while junior Alli Winters added 15 points.
Junior Destani Stensrud scored 12 points to lead the Owls. Senior Katie Scherder had 11 points and five rebounds, while junior Dennisha Rice added 11 points.