By: Sam Knehans, Communications & Sports Information Intern
FRANKFORT, Ky. – (Box Score) The Stars of No. 2-seeded Oklahoma City are headed back to the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship for the 10th time in program history after defeating No. 5-seeded John Brown (Ark.), 67-65, in the first Fab Four game Monday.
This is a new look Stars team from the one that brought home the national title in 2012. Oklahoma City is led by a new coach—Latricia Trammell, who is in her second year at the helm—and features just two returners from the 2012 national championship squad: senior guard Kayla MacKenzie and senior center Cara Pugh.
In a first half marked by scoring runs, Oklahoma City jumped out to a seven-point lead with an 8-1 run, capped by an Autumn Huffman field goal with 14:09 to play in the half. The Golden Eagles took their first lead of the game on a Sierra Shipley field goal at the 11:20 mark, in the midst of a 22-6 run. The Stars would respond, regaining the lead during a 9-0 run in the final 3:37 that was halted by two Shipley free throws to close the half. Oklahoma City took a one-point lead to the locker room, 38-37.
John Brown, which leads the nation in 3-point field goals made per game (9.46) shot characteristically well from beyond the arc in the first half, making 5-of-11 (45.5 percent).
Oklahoma City continued the trend of long runs, opening the second period 9-0 and extending its lead to double-digits for the first time with 16:05 left to play. The Stars lead crept to a game-high 14 before John Brown went on a final 10-2 run to close the game.
“That's something with John Brown. You can't take them for granted. I called several timeouts in the second half just to remind our ladies that this was not over and that they were a good comeback team, which obviously you saw. I'm proud of our girls' effort. They deserve it and we're looking forward to tomorrow's championship game,” said Oklahoma City head coach Trammell.
Oklahoma City did not score in the final 4:24, but escaped with a two-point win, 67-65, when Shipley missed a layup, that would have sent the game to overtime, as the clock expired.
“I thought they'd go inside, and they ended up giving it back to Shipley, which I knew would happen to either drive or look for that three. She had an open look, but that doesn't define who she is. She's a great basketball player, and we just got lucky,” said Trammell.
Shipley, whose 23 points were a game-high, has certainly had a remarkable season for the Golden Eagles. Her 584 points is a shot-clock era single-season John Brown program record, as are her 92 3-point field goals. The senior guard was also named the Golden Eagles’ first-ever WBCA-NAIA All-American last Tuesday at the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Banquet of Champions.
The Golden Eagles did not score in the last 3:34 and went just 1-of-9 (11.1 percent) from 3-point range in the second half.
The Stars dominated the battle of the boards, 43-23, and scored 22 of their 67 points on second chance opportunities, with 20 of their rebounds coming on the offensive end of the floor. Oklahoma City also featured a balanced offensive attack with four players scoring in double-digits.
With the win, Oklahoma City (26-4) advances to its 10th all-time national championship and will be searching for its seventh national title. The Stars will face the winner of No. 3 Wiley (Texas) and No. 1 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) at 6:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
Of the Stars potential matchup on Tuesday, Trammell said, “They're both good teams or they wouldn't be where they are today. I think we've played similar teams to both Wiley and Freed-Hardeman in this tournament, and I'm anxious to see what happens. Both teams will work extremely hard.”
John Brown (28-8), which had not won a national championship game prior to this season, falls in its first-ever Fab Four appearance and ends its season with a single-season program record 28 wins.