Freed-Hardeman Downs Vanguard, 60-49
The Lady Lions, who are making their fourth trip to the semifinals and second in the last three seasons, will encounter their second-straight Golden State Athletic Conference foe in Westmont (Calif.) on Monday, March 18 at 8 p.m. EDT. It will be the first national championship meeting between to the sides.
As they have throughout the championship, Freed-Hardeman dominated the glass, out rebounding Vanguard, 44-30, including 21 offensive boards. Forward Amber Alexander led the Lady Lions with12 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass.
Natalie Shumpert paced Freed-Hardeman with 19 points on 5-of-19 shooting and a perfect, 6-for-6, effort at the free throw line. With the performance, Shumpert is averaging 18.7 points per game at the 2013 national championship. Joining Shumpert in double figures was Cynthia Woodward (11) and Grace Alonso de Armino (10).
Freed-Hardeman opened the contest on an 11-3 run before Vanguard's leading scorer Nicole Ballestero hit a shot to make it 11-5 early in the first half. Only seven points, between the two sides were scored over the next seven minutes, including five from Ballestero. Shumpert eventually ended the stretch with a 3-pointer from the wing, which pushed the Lady Lions advantage back to six, 16-10. Woodward's 3-pointer with less than one minute remaining in the half gave Freed-Hardeman a 10-point, 30-20, lead at the half.
The lead never changed in the second half, as Freed-Hardeman maintained a double figure lead until Chelsea Alfafara hit a 3-pointer off a Ballestero assist to cut the deficit to nine with seven minutes left in the game. The two teams would trade baskets the rest of the way. Vanguard pulled no closer than seven points.
Freed-Hardeman, who leads the NAIA in scoring defense per game, held its fifth opponent in its last six games under 60 points. It's the first time Vanguard has been held under 50 points since its 43-38 victory against Biola (Calif.) on Jan. 28, 2012.
Freed-Hardeman ended the game shooting 32.3 percent (20-of-62) from the field, while Vanguard converted 40.8 percent (20-of-49) of its attempts. The Lady Lions held a 22-2 advantage in second chance points.Vanguard, the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament champion, ends its season with a 25-4 overall record.
Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) head coach Dale Neal