Oklahoma City Claims Battle of Returning Champions
"Just like any tournament that you go to, you've got to get by that first one," said Oklahoma City head coach Bo Overton. "I thought our players were a little out of sync in the first half, but a lot of that had to do with their team (MNU). I think we adjusted in the second half and played a lot smarter."
MidAmerica Nazarene’s Whitney Moia scored the game’s first basket and Pioneers controlled the pace of the first quarter. OCU’s Daniella Wallen turned a MidAmerica Nazarene turnover into a basket and gave the Stars their first lead of the game, 12-11. MNU led at the end of a low-scoring half, 18-14.
Two free throws by Janae Haaggave gave Oklahoma City their second lead of the game, 19-18, at the 8:02 mark of the third quarter. Over the next couple of possessions there were two lead changes and two ties. A free throw by OCU’s Brooke Irwin gave the Stars a lead they would build to eight.
Oklahoma City led by 10, 42-32, with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Pioneers then went on a 7-0 run to trim the lead to three. The teams then traded baskets on the next four possessions. With 28 seconds left in the third quarter, MNU’s Jayden Oliver hit a 3-pointer give the Pioneers their first lead of the second half, 47-46.
The teams opened the fourth quarter by trading baskets and the lead. Two free throws by OCU’s Daniela Wallen broke a 53-53 tie to give the Stars the lead they would not lose.
Haag hit a 3-pointer, which started a 7-0 Oklahoma City run to seal the Stars’ first round victory. Wallen, the nation’s scoring leader, led OCU with 20 points and 10 rebounds for her 16th double-double of the season.
"Daniela Wallen and Daniela Galindo they brought us home in the fourth quarter - that's what they're there for," added Overton. "You could see the intensity in their eyes."
Whitney Moia led MidAmerican Nazarene with a career-high 18 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals.
MidAmerican closes their season at 18-14.
Okahoma City, in their 23rd national championship and 19th consecutive, improves to 31-2. The Stars will play Friday morning at 10:45 a.m. MDT against the winner of the Montana Western-Columbia (Mo.) game.