DI Women’s Basketball National Championship Preview
The 33rd annual event will be televised live on CBS Sports Network with Jason Knapp (play-by-play) and Brenda VanLengen (color) on the call. To find CBS Sports Network in your local area, click here.
The championship final is uncharted territory for both teams. Previously, Lee had never advanced past the semifinals, while Westmont had never surpassed the quarterfinals. This meeting also marks the first all-time between the two sides. Lee enters Tuesday night with a 3-3 all-time record against teams currently playing in the Golden State Athletic Conference. Westmont has never played a current member of the Southern States Athletic Conference, dating back to 1998.
The Lady Flames, who received an automatic berth after winning the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament crown, earned their way to the title game with victories over LSU Shreveport (La.) (60-55), Carroll (Mont.) (63-49), defending national champion Oklahoma City (59-48) and Cumberland (Tenn.) (43-41).
Against Cumberland, Lee showcased why its defense ranks amongst the top 10 nationally in six different categories, including fifth in field goal percentage defense (33.8 percent) and sixth in scoring defense per game (52.3). The Lady Flames held a physical Bulldog side to only 28.8 percent (15-of-52) shooting and a tournament-high 16 turnovers.
Lee (34-2) enters Tuesday night riding a NAIA-best 17-game winning streak and is tied for the most wins in the NAIA with 34. The Lady Flames' last loss was a 70-69 decision at national championship-qualifying Southern Poly (Ga.) on Jan. 26.
Much of the Lady Flames' success this season can be attributed to the consistent play of Hollie German and Jenna Adams. German leads the team with 19.3 points per game, including an 18.5 points per game scoring average at this year's national championship. In six career games at the national championship, the junior guard is averaging 19 points per game, including a national championship career-best 34-point game against Biola (Calif.) in 2012. German leads the NAIA with 694 total points this season and ranks ninth on Lee's all-time scoring list with 1,556 points in three seasons.
Adams is the team's rebounding leader, averaging 9.4 boards per game. She also paces the squad in blocks with 48 and double-doubles with 16 - two at this year's national championship.
Westmont (29-4) entered the national championship coming off a 63-57 loss against Vanguard in the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament championship on March 5. However, the loss has not had a lasting effect on the Warriors, who have fought through four rounds in five days with wins over Cumberlands (Ky.) (63-58), Rogers State (Okla.) (77-70), Westminster (Utah) (39-36) and top-ranked Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) (59-49). The Warriors' quarterfinal victory against Westminster is the lowest combined scoring contest - 75 combined points - in national championship history, breaking the old record of 85 points set in 2004 by Westmont and Brescia (Ky.).
Against Freed-Hardeman, Westmont held the Lions to their worst shooting performance (30.4 percent) of the tournament, while putting together its best 3-point shooting performance of the season (53.8 percent), hitting 7-of-13 attempts.
The Warriors have been led this season by senior forward Tugce Canitez. Canitez ranks amongst the top three nationally in defensive rebounds per game (9.1), points per game (21.5), total scoring (689), total rebounds (394) and rebounds per game (12.3). At the national championship, Canitez is the only player averaging a double-double - 21.5 points and 12.8 rebounds per game - that has played in more than two games.
Outside of Canitez, Westmont has received consistent play from forward Kelsie Sampson and guard Esther Lee. Sampson is second on the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game - averaging 11.3 points per game in the tournament - and second in rebounds per game (6.3). She is the team leader with 43 blocks on the season.
Lee rounds out the Warrior's double figure scorers with an 11.4 points per game average. One of the nation's best 3-point shooters, Lee is shooting 42.9 percent (84-of-196) from beyond the arc this season, including a 40.6 percent (13-for-32) clip at the national championship.
For more information on the 2013 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship, including a complete schedule and bracket, click here.