The Tigers play No. 2 Oklahoma City Monday in the first semifinal at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. MDT.
“These kids want this,” said Campbellsville Head Coach Ginger Colvin. “This is not the most talented team I’ve ever coached, but this is a team that has come in and made history in a way – took us to another fab four. We talk about it all of the time – the MVP is our defense. It took them out of their rhythm.”
Campbellsville exploded out of the gate and outscored the Lady Lions, 10-0, in the game’s first five and half minutes. Campbellsville’s leading scorer Emily Fox scored six of the 10 points in the run.
Freed-Hardeman’s Kim Mallory stopped the run with a 15-footer for the Lady Lions first points of the game. The basket also started a FHU 9-0 run and a 10-9 score after two free throws by Sandrea Sylman. Campbellsville led by five 18-13 after the first quarter.
The second quarter belonged to the Tigers, as they built a double-digit lead. That advantage held until the 1:24 mark of the first half when the Lady Lions went a 6-0 stretch. Three different FHU players scored in the run, which trimmed the Campbellsville lead to six at the halftime break.
Freed-Hardeman made several runs at the Lady Lions in the third quarter. At the 7:07, Abby Miller’s two free throws began a 10-2 run and brought FHU to within two, 44-42, with 6:26 left in the third quarter. That was as close as the Lady Lions would get in the quarter. Campbellsville closed the stanza with a 54-47 lead after three quarters.
Campbellsville extended their lead back to 10 at the 7:10 mark of the fourth quarter on a 3-point basket by Fox. Then, it was the two teams trading baskets, but the Tigers maintaining the lead.
With 2:11 left in the game, FHU’s Tiffany Pate hit a pair of free throws that cut the Tiger advantage to four, 67-63. On the very next offensive possession, Carrie Hatchel missed a shot, got her own rebound and scored cutting the lead to 67-65. Campbellsville turned the ball over on their possession. Hatchel was fouled and made 1-of-2 free throws to cut the lead to 67-66.
The Tigers’ Madison Stewart scored a layup and the lead was back to three, 69-66. FHU answered every Campbellsville basket with one of their own, but could never overtake the Tigers’ lead. The Lady Lions’ Taleeah Cross scored to cut the lead to one, 71-70. FHU was forced to foul, but they fouled Emily Fox, the Tigers’ leading scorer and a 79 percent free throw shooter. Fox calmly stepped to the line and dropped both free throws.
FHU’s Carrie Hatchel attempted a 3-pointer, missed but got her own rebound and missed the layup ending game.
Hatchel led the Lady Lions with 18 points and Kim Mallory scored 14. It was Mallory’s 29th game with 10-or-more points, and it was her 14th double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. She did not score in the fourth quarter.
Freed-Hardeman was making their 21st appearance in the national championship, all consecutive. The Lady Lions never led the entire game. They close the season at 35-1.
“I have so much respect for Dale Neal and what he does with his program,” added Colvin. “His kids don’t play dirty, they play hard and they play well.”
Fox led Campbellsville with 20 points, 13 of which came in the first half. She didn’t score in the third quarter, but scored seven crucial points in the fourth. Fox recorded her 12th-straight game scoring 10+ points.
Campbellsville is making their 25th appearance at the national championship, the most by any school. The Tigers improve to 28-6. They face Oklahoma City in the first semifinal game on Monday.