With the victory, the Lions improve to 34-0 on the season and 33-20 all-time at the national championship. Freed-Hardeman, which has reached at least the semifinals in four of the last six years, has not lost since falling to MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), 59-51, in the 2016 second round.
“I thought we started off pretty well,” said Freed-Hardeman Head Coach Dale Neal. “We had trouble keeping them off the free throw line. It could’ve been a 20-point game instead of a 10-point game if we had gotten to the line. We didn’t do as well at that as we would have liked, but when you get to this point in the year it doesn’t matter if you win by 2 or by 20.”
Freed-Hardeman looked as if it was going to run away with things, as the Lions jumped out to a 23-6 lead with 1:57 left in the opening frame. However, over the course of the second quarter and the start of the third, Rocky Mountain chipped away at the deficit. The Battlin’ Bears pulled within seven points, 32-25, on a Haliee Farstveet 3-point, but Freed-Hardeman proved too strong down the stretch.
With the exception of a 52-43 score with 9:16 left in the contest, Freed-Hardeman held a double-digit lead for nearly the entire second half.
Overall, the Lions ended the game shooting 41.4 percent (24-of-58) from the field and connected on 10 3-pointers.
Freed-Hardeman’s Kim Mallory paced the club with 19 points and 11 rebounds – good for her 12th double-double of the season. The other notable performance for the Lions was by Carrie Hatchel, who tallied a career-high tying 18 points – all on shots from long range – off the bench.
“Carrie (Hatchel) has come up big for us in a number of games where teams are focused on our other two players,” added Neal. “She is an excellent shooter and they were leaving her open. She stepped up and really helped us.”
Despite the loss, Rocky Mountain’s Farstveet was stellar. The junior guard had a game-high 21 points, while also garnering five rebounds and three assists.
The loss gives Rocky Mountain a 13-19 record to end the season. The Battlin’ Bears, who were appearing at the national championship for the first time since 1988, are now 0-2 all-time in the event.