SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) Fresh off the program’s first-ever appearance in the national semifinals, St. Francis (Ill.) is headed to the second round of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championships. In a defensive slugfest, the fifth-seeded Fighting Saints got the upper hand on fourth-seeded Valley City State (N.D.), 56-47, in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday.
- St. Francis is coached by Steve Brooks, who led Indiana Wesleyan to national championships in 2007 and 2013. The Fighting Saints are in the midst of their third appearance on the national stage. Winner of the North Start Athletic Association tournament title, head coach Vanessa Keeler-Johnson’s squad ended the season at 25-4 overall. The Vikings are 0-5 in their five trips to the national tournament.
- St. Francis built a lead as large as 10 points and never trailed at any point, but still had to hold off a late push from Valley City State. The Vikings got as close as three points in the final quarter but failed to find any consistency offensively. They shot 36.2 percent (17-for-47) from the floor and made only 1-of-13 (.077) attempts from beyond the arc.
- Topped by 15 points from Kamari Jordan, the Fighting Saints did just enough on the offensive end. Jordan was joined in double figures by teammates Paige Gieseke (11) and Nichole Davidson (10). Kaitlin Aylward hauled in 10 rebounds while Adriana Acosta added eight points and nine rebounds. As a team, St. Francis shot 40.7 (22-for-54) percent.
- Lexi Lennon sank Valley City State’s only trey as part of a 5-for-15 shooting performance. She put up 16 points and seven rebounds. The rest of the team combined for only 12 made field goals and no other Vikings reached the 10-point mark.
- The Fighting Saints now draw the No. 1 seed in the Duer Bracket, College of the Ozarks (Mo.). the two squads will square off at 5:15 p.m. on Friday in the second round of the national championships.