BILLINGS, Mont. – [BOX SCORE] The outcome was never really in doubt for two-seed Vanguard (Calif.) in the team’s first-round game against seven-seed Bethel (Tenn.) The Lions never trailed and led by double-digits for the entire second half to advance to the second round of the 2018 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
After missing its first two shots of the game, Vanguard made each of its next five attempts including three consecutive 3-point field goals to take a 13-3 lead. That margin was fairly consistent for the rest of the quarter, and most of the rest of the half.
The second quarter was inexplicably slow after how well Vanguard shot in the first quarter. Between the two schools, only 16 points were scored and 6 field goals made. Early in the period, Bethel got the margin down to 24-19, but ultimately the lack of scoring did mean that Vanguard’s lead was safe and the score at the half was 33-20 Lions.
Both offenses were significantly better in the third quarter, but Vanguards was better. The Lions extended the lead throughout the period, leading by as much as 23 and entered the fourth quarter ahead 58-41.
The final 10 minutes were merely a formality and Vanguard worked the lead as high as 25 points.
Two Vanguard plays significantly outperformed their season averages. Meghan Peneueta entered the game averaging 7 points per game but went nuts from long range, hitting 6-9 from three to finish with a game-high 21 points. Center Tania Uluheua came in averaging 5 points per game and only scored 10 or more points twice in 2017-18. Against Bethel, she shot 6-8 from the field, many of which were elbow jumpers, and finished with 14 points.
Bethel’s Shamon Pearson did her best to try and keep her team in it, shooting 6-10 from the field including 3-5 from three for a team-leading 15 points.
For the third straight year in Vanguard’s string of 17 straight NAIA tournament appearances, the Lions will advance past the first round. The Lions will play Carroll (Mont.) in the second round on Friday, March 16 at 9:45 p.m.