INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – (Box Score) No. 4 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) becomes the second team from the Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) to earn a trip to the championship second round, as the Pioneers eliminates No. 5 Wayland Baptist (Texas), 72-69, Thursday night at the 2015 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City. The 35th annual championship is being played out at the Independence Events Center for the first time in NAIA history.
The contest came down to the final four minutes, as MidAmerica Nazarene took a 68-65 lead when Megan Balcom’s hit one of her two 3-pointers on the night – the team’s only triple of the second half. The two teams traded turnovers and missed baskets for the next 3:40 until Wayland Baptist’s Shawna Monreal converted a runner in the lane to cut the deficit to one, 68-67, with 16 seconds left.
MidAmerica Nazarene sealed the victory with free throws, going 4-for-4 from the charity stripe to close the contest and earn a second-straight trip to the second round of the national championship.
A poor offensive effort by MidAmerica Nazarene in the opening 20 minutes propelled Wayland Baptist to a 32-27 lead at the break. The Pioneers, who entered the championship ranked 10th in the NAIA in team field goal percentage (43. 8 percent), converted only 9-of-35 first half attempts (25.7 percent).
Wayland Baptist ended the period shooting 31.6 percent and, arguably more importantly, held a +3 advantage in turnover margin. LaTericka Anderson and Iesha Greer led all scorers in the opening frame with eight points each.
Both squads had better offensive efforts in the second half. MidAmerica Nazarene shot 40.5 percent en route to a 36.0 percent performance from the field. However, the Pioneers struggled from 3-point range, making only 4-of-12 attempts.
MidAmerica Nazarene’s Tristin Wicks and Kyleesha Weston led the team with 15 points each. Daria Sprew tallied her sixth double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Sixty-seven of the Flying Queens’ 69 points were scored by their starting five, including a game-high 17 from Stephanie Afunugo. Other double-digit scorers for Wayland Baptist included Anderson with 16 points, Shawna Monreal with 15 points and Greer with 12 points.
MidAmerica Nazarene sets its sights on No. 1 Campbellsville (Ky.). The two programs will lock horns Friday at 8 p.m. CDT in a rematch of Jan. 2 meeting that was won by the Lady Tigers, 62-51.
Wayland Baptist closes the season with a 19-12 record.