March 21, 2006
JACKSON, Tenn. - Union University captured their second-consecutive National Championship with a 79-62 victory over sixth-seeded Lubbock Christian University (Texas) at the 26th Annual NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship at the Oman Arena.
The victory extends Union's tournament win streak to 10 games, dating back to a 77-55 victory over LCU to open tournament play last season on their way to their first championship, a championship that was a little less easy to enjoy than this year for Union head coach Mark Campbell. "I definitely enjoyed the last four minutes of the game [this year] better. Last year I was to nervous during the final minutes," said Campbell, whose team led by as many as 26, 77-55, with four and a half to play. Lubbock Christian, entered the tournament as one of the six seeds, knocking off two No. 1 seeds, a No. 2 seed, and a No. 3 seed on their way to their first ever title game and becoming the lowest seeded team to ever reach an NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championship Final. Union marked their fifth trip to the final game (1993, 1997, 1998, 2005, 2006), winning each of their last three trips.
The Lady Bulldogs posted a 14-4 run in the final seven minutes of the first half to pull away from what had been a closely contested game and take a 41-30 lead into halftime. The lead grew to as many as 15 early in the second half and then up to the 77-55 lead. Campbell cleared his bench in the final minutes to allow everyone to taste some time on the floor in a championship win, as Lubbock cut the final deficit to 17 points. "They are a team of runs, and we knew that coming in," said Lubbock Christian head coach Steve Gomez. "We just weren't consistent enough to pull out of it." At the start of the game, a very aggressive Lubbock Christian team jumped out to a quick 13-7 lead over Union, forcing the Lady Bulldogs to call a timeout with 15:33 left in the first half. Union responded with an 11-4 run to regain the lead at 18-17 with 12:28 left in the first half on a basket by Josephine Owino. Over the next few minutes, both team swapped baskets until the 7:41 mark in the first half when the Union runs allowed them to begin pulling away. The first half saw Union continue their masterful tournament shooting form behind the arc as they shot 63 percent (5-8), but it was the 12 first half points by freshman center Owino that help get Union the 11-point cushion at the break. The Lady Bulldogs were led by freshman Josephine Owino who posted her second straight double-double of the tournament with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Natanya Smith added 16 points and 14 rebounds in a rare two post player lineup for Union. Ena Daniels added 10 points in the game.
In a tournament where Union's three point shooting (43 percent) was so prevalent, it was Owino and Smith's combined 40 points and 24 rebounds in the post that sealed Union's second straight NAIA crown in this title game. "We go with two posts when we have two to match up against. I thought they really did a good job down there. We've never had a game where both [Owino and Smith] did what they did tonight in the same game," said Campbell.
Lubbock Christian was led by freshman Sierra Wilcox with 19 points and nine rebounds. Casie Legg added 14 points and Ashley Hunter tallied 10 points. Lubbock Christian made 41 percent (7-17) from behind the arc but shot just 36 from the field otherwise. Five players from the championship game were named among the NAIA All-Tournament team, as Lubbock Christian's Wilcox and Candace Clenney joined Union's Owino, Daniels, and Merideth Richardson. Campbell was named the NAIA Coach of the Year for the second straight season after leading his team to their sixth 30 win season in his seven year tenure.
Union finishes the season with a 31-6, while Lubbock Christian closes out their Cinderella run at 23-12.
All-Tournament Team First Team Kelly Schmidt, Vanguard University (Calif.) Ena Daniels, Union University (Tenn.) Candace Clenney, Lubbock Christian University (Texas) Mariam Sy, Oklahoma City University Kera Bergeron, Freed-Hardeman University (Tenn.)
Second Team Jackie Weaver, Trevecca Nazarene University (Tenn.) Josephine Owino, Union University (Tenn.) Meredith Richardson, Union Unviersity (Tenn.) Sierra Wilcox, Lubbock Christian University (Texas) Kinsley Mittel, The Master's College (Calif.) Angela Gimeno, The Master's College (Calif.)
Most Valuable Player: Mariam Sy, Oklahoma City University Hustle Award: Sierra Wilcox, Lubbock Christian University (Texas) Coach of the Year: Mark Campbell, Union University (Tenn.)