March 14, 2012
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FRANKFORT, Ky. – (Box Score) Despite shooting only 36.2 percent (29-of-80) from the field and trailing by as many as 12 in the first half, defending champion Azusa Pacific (Calif.) kept its repeat hopes alive with a 77-72 overtime victory against MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) in game three of the 2012 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship presented by Kentuckytourism.com. The Cougars, who improve to 25-7 on the season, advance to play Shawnee State (Ohio) at 9 a.m. on Friday.
“All year we’ve worked hard,” said Azusa Pacific head coach T.J. Hardeman. “We had some good looks in the first half that just were dropping, but we knew we needed to keep the pressure on. They (MidAmerica Nazarene) are a good team.“
Briana Hall, who entered the game averaging 22.8 points in her last three games, led Azusa Pacific with a season-best 32 points, including 24 in the second half and overtime. Joining Hall in double-figures was two-time national Player of the Week Amber Williams with 22 points. Williams also added eight rebounds, while Hall dished out a game-high 10 assists.
“I told Briana (Hall) this is why you’re here,” said Hardeman. “It was nice to see her stretch the game like that.”
The two sides traded baskets over the first ten minutes before a pair of jumpers by Kassidy Ritchel sparked a 12-0 MidAmerica Nazarene run that gave the Pioneers a 26-14 lead with 6:55 left in the opening frame. Azusa Pacific would cut the deficit to six (26-20) two minutes later, however MidAmerica Nazarene answered with a 6-0 run en route to taking a 37-27 lead into the locker room.
The Pioneers finished the first half shooting 50 percent (16-of-32) from the field, while the Cougars shot only 31.6 percent (12-of-38).
Azusa Pacific found its stride in the second half, improving its shooting percentage to 40.5 percent (17-of-42) from the field, while going 14-of-14 from the free throw line. A pair of Hall free throws capped a 15-7 Cougar run that tied the score 44-44 with 13:55 remaining in regulation. The lead would change hands twice more during the period before Hall would connect on two free throws with four seconds left to send the game into overtime.
The Cougars would outscore MidAmerica Nazarene, 9-4, in the overtime to earn the win.
The Pioneers were led in scoring by Ritchel and Kiley Herold with 14 points each, while Daria Sprew and Rachel Boan chipped in 12 points apiece, respectively. MidAmerica Nazarene finished the contest shooting 44.6 percent (29-of-65) from the floor and 69.2 percent (9-of-13) at the free throw line.
MidAmerica Nazarene ends the season with a record of 25-9.