Lewis-Clark State faces off against Oklahoma City tomorrow night in the championship final. Tip is scheduled for 7:02 p.m. MDT inside Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. The game will be distributed live on ESPN3.
The Warriors are appearing in the national championship for the 20th time in program history and now boast a 24-19 record in the event. Prior to tonight, Lewis-Clark State had never advanced beyond the semifinals.
“We truly expected a battle from beginning to end,” said Lewis-Clark State Head Coach Brian Orr. “Not taking anything against Vanguard, but hey, our girls were ready from the very beginning. They missed shots to begin with and we hit shots to begin with and all the sudden we had the momentum. But hey, right here, Cailyn Orlandi leads our fast break and I thought that part of our game was dominant all game long.”
It was a total team effort for Lewis-Clark State, as eight different players scored at least two points and four different individuals notched double figures. Brooke Litalien paced the team with 13 points, while Jossilyn Blackman had 12 points, respectively. Blackman added 13 rebounds to record her second double-double of the season and career.
Cailyn Orlandi – the Frontier Conference Player of the Year – entered the night averaging 22 points per game through three games at this year’s national championship and has been the star for the Warriors throughout the season. The senior tallied only three points in the game, however, she ended the night with a season-high 12 assists. Orlandi took only four shots in a little over 34 minutes of play.
“I like to think of myself as kind of like a ‘need me’ player,” said Lewis-Clark State’s Orlandi. “If you need me to score, I’ll try and do that for you, if you need me to pass, I’ll pass for you. I love playing that role on our team and when my teammates are knocking them down like that it makes me happy to see them so excited.”
Lewis-Clark State stormed out of the gate, shooting 61.5 percent (8-of-13) from the field in the opening 10 minutes to take a 19-12 lead into the intermission. Just as impressive was the Warriors’ defense, holding Vanguard to only a 25 percent success rate from the field.
Unfortunately for Vanguard, the pace continued as the Lewis-Clark State opened both the second and third quarters with 13-2 runs. The second of the two runs was capped by a jumper from Jossilyn Blackman to give the Warriors a 49-23 advantage with 4:09 left on the third quarter clock.
The Warriors pushed their advantage to as many as 34 points, 65-31, before the final buzzer sounded.
Overall, Lewis-Clark State shot 44.3 percent from the field (27-of-61), including a 40 percent effort (8-for-20) from beyond the arc. The Warriors assisted on 23 of the club’s 27 field goals, which marks the 14th time this year that Lewis-Clark State has reached the 20 assists plateau.
Vanguard, which entered the game ranked among the top 20 in scoring offense, struggled to find a rhythm on offense the entire night. The Lions ended the game shooting only 23.4 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from 3-point range, including a 0-for-9 effort from beyond the arc in the second half.
Despite converting only 2-of-6 field goals in the opening 20 minutes, Claire Lamunu ended the night as Vanguard’s leading scorer. The senior forward registered a game-high 15 points, while also grabbing 19 boards en route to her 25th double-double this season.
Vanguard, appearing in the semifinals for the fifth time in club history, ends the season with a 30-4 record. The Lions were making their 19th championship appearance.