March 25, 2008
Click here to learn more about the 2008 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship
JACKSON, Tenn. - (Final Bracket)History was not on its side, but second-seeded Vanguard (Calif.) University became the NAIA's first-ever Division I Women's Basketball National Champion from the state of California, defeating sixth-seeded Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) University, 72-59, in Tuesday's national title game.
"The first thing I thought about when we won tonight was how many phone calls I got today from all of our past players, even the players we brought out for our program's first national tournament (in 1998)," said Vanguard head coach Russ Davis, the 2008 NAIA Coach of the Year. "This win was special for all the players who had been here before and last year's seniors, because they built this program up to the point where we could get to this point where we could win a national championship."
Vanguard never trailed in the contest, with junior forward Lauren Gregory winning the opening tip and hitting the first of 11 three-pointers for Vanguard, part of a 9-2 run that included the first of six three-pointers made by senior guard Melissa Cook. A pair of Cook free throws pushed the lead to double-digits for the first time at 29-19 with 4:13 to play in the first half. Trevecca Nazarene freshman forward K.C. Van Atta closed the gap to six points at 36-30 with 18 seconds left in the half, but Vanguard senior guard Bridgette Reyes knocked down a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to give the Lions a 38-30 halftime lead.
Van Atta hit another three-pointer to open the second half, cutting the lead to 38-33, but Cook and freshman guard Sarah Boyd hit back-to-back three-pointers to cap an 8-0 run to push the lead to 46-33 less than two minutes into the second half. Trevecca Nazarene twice trimmed the lead back into single digits, but Cook answered both times with three-pointers, the second giving Vanguard a 54-42 lead with 10:02 to play. Cook's final three-pointer of the game gave Vanguard its largest lead of the game at 64-49 with 2:36 to play.
For the second straight game, Vanguard shot over 45 percent from three-point range, knocking down 11-of-24 (46 percent) three-pointers in the win over Trevecca Nazarene after sinking 10-of-22 (46 percent) in Monday's 74-72 semifinal win over previously unbeaten and No. 1-seeded Union (Tenn.) University.
"We addressed (Trevecca Nazarene) immediately after last night's win," said Davis. "We talked about how good Trevecca Nazarene is and what they do well. They were able to take Union to overtime, so they're obviously good enough to beat anybody in the country. We knew last night was a big win, but it didn't mean anything if we didn't take care of tonight."
It was also the second straight game in which the Lions shot better from three-point range than it did from inside the arc. Vanguard had an 18 percentage points difference between two-point and three-point field goals, making just 10-of-36 (28 percent) of its two-point attempts.
Cook finished with a game-high 25 points, drilling six-of-10 three-pointers and grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds for the double-double. Reyes added 14 points, and senior guard Jessica Richter, the tournament MVP, added 12 points, eight rebounds and a game-high five steals.
Trevecca Nazarene, which has made four straight quarterfinals appearances, suffers its second straight season-ending defeat at the hands of Vanguard after last year suffering an 82-56 defeat to the Lions, and the Trojans finish the season with a final record of 23-12. Senior guard Mariska Reed scored a team-high 19 points for Trevecca Nazarene, and senior center Jennifer Bognar added a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double. Van Atta added 12 points, all on three-pointers, to go with five rebounds.
Vanguard is the first NAIA champion located outside Oklahoma or Tennessee since 1993, and the Lions are the first program west of the Rockies to claim the NAIA Division I women's championship. Vanguard finishes its national title run with a final record of 29-5.
The championship game drew an attendance of 1,764, bringing the week-long tournament's total attendance to 20,530.
2008 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship All-Tournament Awards
Jessica Richter, Vanguard (Calif.) University
All-Tournament First Team
Josephine Owino, Union (Tenn.) University
Lauren Gregory, Vanguard (Calif.) University
Jana Cross, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) University
Kayla Hudson, Union (Tenn.) University
Mariska Reed, Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) University
All-Tournament Second Team
Carolyn Manning, Lubbock Christian (Texas) University
Kristin Archie, Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) University
Abby Lawson, Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) University
Melissa Cook, Vanguard (Calif.) University
Tara Deatheridge, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) University
Kiely Schork, Loyola (La.) University New Orleans
Phyllis Holmes Coach of the Year
Russ Davis, Vanguard (Calif.) University
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is the governing body for athletics programs at its nearly 300 colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada. The long-held mission of the NAIA is to promote the education and development of well-rounded students and productive citizens through intercollegiate athletics. The association offers equitable access and opportunities for participation in its 23 national championship events held annually throughout the country.
Today, the NAIA strengthens its commitment to student-athletes and strives to enrich their college experience by supporting academic achievement and character development. NAIA Champions of Character is the association's innovative flagship program designed to instill character values in student-athletes, coaches and youth in the communities it serves.