FRANKFORT, Ky. – (Box Score) Top-ranked Vanguard (Calif.) had no trouble putting its first loss of the season behind them. The Lions, which had a 26-game win streak snapped March 7 in the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament, dominated the final game of the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championships opening round Thursday, beating California State University San Marcos, 97-47.
Vanguard (27-1) will meet fifth-seed John Brown University (26-7) of Arkansas on Friday in the final game of the second round at 9:45 p.m. EDT in the Frankfort Convention Center.
The 50-point margin of victory was not only the largest in this year’s tournament and in Vanguard’s national tournament history, but also the fourth-largest score difference in the tournament’s 34 years. The last time a team won by at least 50 was the opening game of the 1992 tournament, a 96-45 win by top-ranked Simon Fraser (B.C.) over Pembroke State (N.C.), both former NAIA members.
Nicole Ballestero scored a national tournament career-high 38 points to lead Vanguard, shooting 56.5 percent (13-for-23). She hit seven 3-pointers, the most in the tournament thus far. Samantha Doucette and Taylor Belmont followed with 15 and 12 points, respectively. Belmont also added eight assists, the second most by a player in the opening round this year.
Vanguard out-rebounded CSSM, 55-43, led by Melissa Norman’s 12 boards.
Sherika Miller and Brianna Higgins led Cal State San Marcos with 12 and 10 points, respectively, while Cassie Damyanovich had eight. The trio combined for 30 of the Cougars’ 47 points.
Vanguard started the game with a 7-2 lead, which later grew to 17-4 and 38-8 before the Lions entered halftime up 54-19. The Lions used several runs in the second half to extend their 35-point lead into the final 50-point margin.
Cal State San Marcos finishes its season 15-18 after earning its first-ever bid to the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championships as winner of the Association of Independent Institutions Tournament.
All four No. 1 seeds advanced to the second round, along with one No. 2 seed, three No. 3 seeds, two No. 4 seeds, two No. 5 seeds, one No. 6 seed and three No. 7 seeds. This is the first time in NAIA Division I Women's Basketball national championship history that three No. 7 seeds have advanced to the second round.
Four teams posted their first-ever national championship win in this year's first round: Baker (Kan.), John Brown (Ark.), MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) and Our Lady of the Lake (Texas).
The Frontier Conference leads all conferences with three teams advancing to the second round: Lewis-Clark State (Idaho), Montana State-Northern and Westminster (Utah.).