INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – (Box Score) The 2015 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City, has dwindled down to four.
Top-seeded Campbellsville (Ky.) cemented itself as the final entrant into Monday’s Fab Four after storming back from a 19-point second-half deficit to down second seed Bethel (Tenn.), 73-64, in the final contest of Saturday’s quarterfinal round inside the Independence Events Center. With the win, the Tigers reach the semifinals for the first time in school history.
“It is a tough one for me to not be emotional because I have been there as a player, as an assistant and now obviously as a head coach,” Campbellsville head coach Ginger Colvin said. “I have stood out there in that NAIA picture 23 times. It is so emotional for me because of all the kids that have knocked on that door.”
“It is a big win for Campbellsville University’s program,” she said.
The No. 1 Tigers (32-3) joins No. 1 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) (35-1), No. 1 Oklahoma City (28-2) and No. 4 Westmont (Calif.) (27-6) as the national semifinalists who will compete on Monday night for a chance to play for the ultimate prize on Tuesday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. CDT.
Both teams had to wait out a three-overtime contest between Westmont (Calif.) and Oklahoma Baptist before they could get the finale of the quarterfinals started. It didn’t seem to bother the Lady Wildcats as they stormed out of the starting gates on a 9-0 run in just over two minutes of play.
After the initial scoring surge of the game, both teams hit a groove offensive and settled in. The Lady Wildcats’ lead fluctuated throughout the first 20 minutes – and hit a high of nine points on three more occasions – but little did they know what was about to take place in the second half.
Bethel again came out on fire from the floor, upping its lead to 19 at 52-33 with 15:08 standing between the Lady Wildcats and their first trip to the national semifinals in team history.
Then it all fell apart.
From 15:08-7:01, the Tigers’ offense exploded on a 26-6 run to take the lead for the first time in the contest at 59-58 after Lindey Young grabbed a rebound and a put-back.
“We talked all year about our depth,” Colvin said. “We are fortunate to have depth in our post spot and we brought in two new sets of legs. I think we started to make a run then.”
The Bethel team seemed to be in shock and could not recover after losing the double-digit lead.
Campbellsville kept the momentum rolling by taking control of the game and eventually grabbing a game-high advantage of 12 points at 73-61 with only a few ticks remaining.
Lady Wildcats’ senior Tayla Foster hit her final 3-pointer of her career with 16 seconds remaining, as Bethel drops to 32-4 with the loss. Foster led her team with 22 points, but did so on 9-of-30 shots. She also pulled down seven rebounds in her final game.
Foster was joined in double-figures by Kenyatta Drake – who notched a double-double (14 points and 10 boards) – and Shamon Pearson’s 13.
Madison Clements was a key cog in the comeback for Campbellsville, as the sophomore guard made big shot after big shot in the second half. Clements recorded a team-high 18 points – 15 in the second half – to pace the huge comeback (7-of-11 from the field).
LeeAnn Grinder and Caroline Owen both netted 17 and 13, respectively, for the top-seeded squad as well.
The Tigers now move on and try to stay focused as a matchup with the Lady Lions looms in the second semifinal game on Monday evening. Tip is set for 8 p.m. CDT.