“I thought we defended well,” said Bethel Head Coach Chris Nelson. “Our average is 57, and we were able to hold them to 57. We knew that they’d make a run there in the second half, and they did. Overall, I think everyone on our team contributed. Everybody made some big plays.”
Poor shooting plagued both teams in the first quarter, as Bethel shot only 26 percent from the floor and Wayland Baptist was even colder converting a chilly 18 percent.
With three seconds left in the first quarter, Bethel’s Brandi Goodman hit a runner to give the Wildcats a 13-12 lead. Bethel extended that lead with a 14-4 second quarter run. In the second quarter, the Wildcats shot a sizzling 69 percent from the field and outscored the Flying Queens 25-15 in the period.
Late in the third quarter, Wayland Baptist went on an 18-10 run and trimmed the Bethel lead to 45-48. That was as close as Wayland would get, as Bethel responded with a 10-0 run giving the Wildcats a double-digit lead which they held the remainder of the game.
Goodman led Bethel and all scorers with 19 points. Shamon Pearson recorded her fifth double-double of the year with 14 points and 10 rebounds. She scored 11 points in the first half.
“I think they (Goodman and Pearson) really complement each other wee,” added Nelson. “I thought that Shamon’s defense was as good as anything, and on top she kept attacking and was strong throughout the game.”
Bethel improves to 24-10 and will now face the winner of the Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) – William Penn (Iowa) game in the second round.
“It’s a quick turnaround to the second round,” said Nelson. “Tomorrow we’ll have our shoot around and be locked in and ready to go. I tell people all the time that if you want to get to a Fab Four and win a championship it’s a hard to thing to do. You’ve got to be tough, and the toughest team always wins.”
Wayland Baptist has not made it past the first round of the tournament since 2003. The Flying Queens two leading scorers, Jade Jones and Mai Merket, were held to a combined 13 points. Wayland Baptist ends their season at 25-7.
The Flying Queens were making their 24th all-time appearance at the national championship, which trails only Campbellsville (Ky.) (25) for the most in NAIA history.