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Lambuth Wins First NAIA Title With 63-50 Win Over Cumberland

March 20, 2007

March 20, 2007

JACKSON, Tenn. - Lambuth University (Tenn.) defeated TranSouth Athletic Conference rival Cumberland University (Tenn.) 63-50 to win the first NAIA title in program history at the 27th Annual NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at Oman Arena.

 

It was the first NAIA Division I Women's Basketball championship game in which both participants were playing in the title game for the first time. Lambuth, seeded fifth in the tournament bracket, is the lowest-seeded champion since the NAIA implemented bracketed quarters in 2003, and the Eagles are just the fourth different team to claim a title over the past 14 seasons, and they set up the surprising title game matchup with a semifinal win over Union (Tenn.), which had won the previous two titles. Southern Nazarene (Okla.) won six titles during the span, while Oklahoma City won four straight titles from 1999-2002.

 

Lambuth led by four points at halftime, 26-22, but back-to-back buckets by Juliana Fernandes brought Cumberland to within a single point at 29-28 with 15:59 remaining in the game. After trading baskets, Dee Preyer sank a long three-pointer from the left wing to spark a 21-5 run over the next six minutes that put the Lambuth lead into double digits for good at 52-35 with 9:48 to play. Lambuth maintained a 13- to 17-point advantage the rest of the way to clinch the title.

 

Both teams were appearing in their first title game, and they combined for just one basket in the first three minutes, an Ashley Cross jumper less than a minute into the game. Isabelli Cunico snapped the drought with a three-pointer, then blocked Meghan Fuqua's attempt at the other end to set up Tomika Hall's 10-foot jumper from the baseline that gave Cumberland a 7-0 lead.

 

With 15:48 remaining in the half, Kelly Forrest put Lambuth on the board, but after another scoreless minute and a half ticked away, Juliana Fernandes gave Cumberland its largest lead of the game at 10-2 with 14:09 left in the period. Lambuth answered with 10 straight points, the last three on a Reggie Maddox three-pointer that gave Lambuth its first lead at 12-10 with 11:25 to play in the half, and the Eagles never trailed again. Tara Robinson's three-pointer with 9:21 left pushed the lead to 19-13 for Lambuth, and Maddox gave the Eagles their largest first-half lead at 21-13 with 5:54 remaining.

 

Cumberland answered with a seven-point run, capped by another Cunico three with 2:30 to go before halftime, but Kelly Forrest's three-pointer off the glass just 12 seconds later pushed the Lambuth lead back to 24-20, and after trading baskets in the final 1:15, the Eagles took the four-point lead into halftime.

 

Maddox and Fuqua each scored 17 points to lead Lambuth, with Maddox adding 11 rebounds and eight assists. Fuqua scored 15 of her 17 in the second half, including two-of-three from three-point range. Robinson added nine points off the bench, while Preyer was also two-of-three from long distance, finishing with eight points.

 

 

 

 

Hall led Cumberland with 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, while Cunico added 10 points for Cumberland. Fernandes and C'Kala Humes each added nine points, with Humes pulling down nine rebounds. Cumberland's third-leading scorer, Kiana Robinson, did not suit up for Cumberland after suffering an injury in Monday's semifinal win over Vanguard. With 17:43 remaining in the game, Kari Maddox was carried off the court by paramedics after a hard fall in the key on the defensive end, leaving Cumberland with seven active players with at least 30 games experience this year.

 

Lambuth, finishes the season 27-9 overall after claiming the NAIA crown after a four-year absence from the national tournament. In four previous appearances from 1999-2002, Lambuth was eliminated three times in the second round and exited once in the first round. Cumberland finishes the season with a 27-8 overall record after also advancing past the second round for the first time in program history. Cumberland suffered a first-round exit in its first-ever NAIA Tournament appearance in 1999 and was knocked out of the 2005 tourney in the second round.

 

 

2007 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championship

 

Tournament MVP:                         Reggie Maddox (Lambuth)

 

All-Tournament First Team:          Ashley Cross (Cumberland)

                                                      Matalya McBath-Belvin (Langston)

                                                      Khady Ngom (Southern Nazarene)

                                                      Kiana Robinson (Cumberland)

                                                      Jessica Richter (Vanguard)

 

All-Tournament Second Team:    Abby Lawson (Trevecca Nazarene)

                                                      Josephine Owino (Union)

                                                      Dee Preyer (Lambuth)

                                                      Kelly Schmidt (Vanguard)

                                                      Dominique Thomas (Houston Baptist)

 

Hustle Award:                                Ashley Cross (Cumberland)