William Woods Upends MidAmerica Nazarene, 79-75
The NAIA postseason win is only the second in program history at the NAIA DI Championships. The previous was in 2011, when the sixth-seeded Owls upset No. 3 Biola (Calif.).
William Woods is the second No. 6 seed to win in the opening round this season, as Carroll (Mont.) knocked off The Master's (Calif.) earlier in the day Wednesday. It is only the fifth time multiple No. 6 seed teams have advanced past the opening round in the same championship event since the seeding format changed in 2003.
Junior guard Priscilla Santos came off the bench to lead William Woods' rally with a career-high 37 points, the most of any player so far in the 2013 NAIA Division I first round. The Owls had the lead for a total of 56 seconds in the game before keeping it for the final 2:21 of play. Each time, it was Santos scoring the go-ahead basket or free throw.
William Woods (26-6) hit 11-of-14 free throws in the final three and a half minutes to take and build its lead. Santos was 7-of-8 during the stretch to cap a 22-point second half. She shot 15-of-18 (.833) from the line during the game and 11-of-18 (.611) from the floor. She also added 12 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season.
MidAmerica Nazarene took a 6-2 lead to start the game and led by as many as seven, 17-10, in the first nine minutes of play, but Santos scored all points in a 10-2 run for the Owls to gain their first lead of the night, 20-19. MNU regained a brief lead before Santos gained it back at, 24-23. The game remained within two possessions until Sadequa Longus pushed it to an eight-point game, 41-33, with a minute left and Kelsey Balcom made it nine, 43-34, entering halftime.
Balcom finished with a season-high 25 points to lead MNU, followed by 15 from Daria Sprew and 12 from Kendra Flemming
The Pioneers quickly built their lead to 13 points, 51-38, coming out of the break, and maintained a double-figure margin until Blake French hit a 3 to cut it back to single digits, 61-53, for good. Over the next six and a half minutes, William Woods chiseled away at its deficit until Santos hit a pair of free throws to take a brief lead, 66-65, with 3:30 remaining. She did it again with 2:21 left, and the Owls never trailed again.
MNU was strong at the free throw line, 9-of-10, during the game, but struggled from the floor in the second half, shooting 36.1 percent and did not hit one of its dozen 3-point attempts in the game.
MidAmerica Nazarene ends its season with a 30-2 record.
William Woods will meet Vanguard (Calif.) in the second round on Friday at 4:30 p.m. EDT.