INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – (Box Score) The 35th annual NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City, is being held in the Independence Events Center for the first time in NAIA history.
On Friday evening, compliments of the fourth-seeded Warriors of Westmont (Calif.), the arena has now seen its inaugural No. 1 seed get bounced from the competition. Westmont (26-6) used an efficient offensive attack and just enough defense to answer every call Westminster (Utah) threw its way. The Warriors eventually put the game to rest, 68-59, and moved on to the round of eight where they await No. 2 Oklahoma Baptist.
It was a fast-paced first 20 minutes that saw both teams work their offense on the opposing defense. Westmont shot 46.9 percent from the field while drilling 5-of-12 from behind the arc (41.7 percent.). The Warriors’ Lauren McCoy led all scorers with 11 first-half points, and Esther Lee joined in with 10 points.
A key factor in the first 20 minutes was the 9-0 advantage in second-chance points by Westmont.
The Griffins (26-3) had a balanced score sheet in the first half, as seven players contributed to the offense. Shelby Ellsworth led the way with seven total points. Westminster also was hot from the 3-point line, sinking 6-of-10 efforts from deep.
The balanced attack was not enough at half (36-32) and proved to be sub-par in a comeback attempt for the No. 1 seeded group. The Griffins held the lead, 2-0, 1:15 into the game, but were never able to reclaim it again.
Amy Krommenhoek burst for 10 second-half points – leading Westminster scorers with 16 for the game – but did so on only 6-of-20 from the floor. She was joined by Tia Pappas (10 points and eight rebounds) and Amanda Hacking (10 points and 12 boards) in double-figures.
Offensively, every player who checked into the action scored at least two points in tonight’s action.
A poorer shooting display in the second half erased any opportunity for Westminster to get over the hump and take the lead again. The Frontier Conference tournament champions made only nine buckets in the final stanza (9-of-30) and only hit 2-of-16 long balls.
Westmont had a quartet of players lead the way in double-figures in the upset, led by McCoy’s 20. Cora Chan came on with a 13-point effort, while both Kristin Karr and Lee contributed 12 apiece.
Today’s win marks the second time in three years the Warriors have taken the Griffins out in the national championship – 39-36 in 2013 – their championship banner-earning season.
Tonight is the first time the Griffins have tasted defeat since dropping a 55-50 decision to Carroll (Mont.) on Jan. 8 – snapping their 16-game winning streak.
Westmont hopes to carry the momentum from tonight’s upset into tomorrow night’s matchup with the Bison. The two schools will now fight for a berth in the Fab Four after Oklahoma Baptist overcame being down 19 points to beat No. 3 Our Lady of the Lake (Texas), 77-75.
Tip is set for 6 p.m. CDT.