BILLINGS, Mont. – [BOX SCORE] Lauren McCoy hit a tough layup through contact from two defenders with 1.9 seconds left and score tied at 54 to send one-seed Westmont (Calif.) to the national championship of the 2018 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championships by Wells Fargo. The Warrior’s 56-54 win over four-seed Wayland Baptist (Texas) sends Westmont back to finals for the first time since 2013.
The win also has special significance to a team coming from a part of the country that has had a difficult year.
“We’ve been through a lot of adversity this year with the fires, and the mudslides, and now the campus is being evacuated due to more rain in the forecast, and we are here playing for a national championship,” WC Head Coach Kirsten Moore said. “We want to be an inspiration. We are Montecito strong. Even though we are here doing what all these young ladies have worked so hard for, we are doing it with the thoughts of people at home.”
Westmont never trailed in the last three quarters, but the team’s largest lead was a minimal eight points in the second quarter. WBU tied the game multiple times down the stretch, but the most important came with 22 seconds left to go.
Trailing 55-52, the Flying Queens had the ball and an inbound from right in front of their own bench with 29 seconds left.
In the last 22 seconds, Westmont called three timeouts. The first advanced the ball into their own zone. The other two came after quick plays called in the huddle didn’t create the shot the team was hoping for. After the third timeout, there were just seven seconds left on the clock, and the Warriors got the ball to their leader McCoy.
She caught the ball outside the three-point arc and to the right of the basket. After an initial drive toward the free-throw line, she crossed over to her right, drove down the lane and hit a layup with two sets of arms from WBU defenders reaching for the sky to block the shot. The shot went down with 1.9 left on the clock.
Wayland Baptist got one last chance, taking an off-balance three that never had much chance of going in.
“I am so proud of my girls,” Moore said. “We had a lot of confidence down the stretch. We have won so many close games in the fourth quarter this year and just find ways down the stretch to win games.”
Westmont’s defense was a big factor down the stretch, making big stops in the fourth quarter when the team’s offense struggled to make the shots that would have separated them from the Flying Queens. The Warriors forced 15 turnovers and had four blocks in the game while only sending WBU to the free-throw line six times.
McCoy not only made the big shot at the end, but she did so throughout, scoring 22 points with 11 rebounds and two assists. She was joined by Morgan Haskin in carrying the Warrior offense. Haskin added 18 points to combine with McCoy to account for 71 percent of the team’s scoring.
For Wayland Baptist, the game was once again a total team effort. Six players scored seven points or more without anyone scoring more than 12. Deborah VanDijk was the one with 12, followed by Bennett and Kendrick Clark with 10 each.
Westmont advances to its second championship game in program history. They beat Lee in 2013 for the programs first NAIA National Championship. In 2018, they will play fellow one-seed Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) for the title on Tuesday, March 29 at 7:00 p.m.