INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – (Box Score) In their first trip to the Fab Four of the 2015 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City, the Lady Tigers of Campbellsville (Ky.) will play for a national championship banner.
The Tigers earned a spot in tomorrow’s championship final against defending national champion Oklahoma City by eliminating fellow one seed Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), 56-52, Monday night inside the Independence Events Center.
“Obviously to knock off the No. 1 team in the country is something that our program has never done before,” Campbellsville head coach Ginger Colvin said. “To be able to do that in a national tournament setting, and send us to the national finals, you could not script it any better than that.”
In 23 appearances in the national championship, Campbellsville (33-3) has never played this far into the season. The Tigers will take another first step tomorrow evening on the brightest stage of Division I women’s basketball. Standing in their way from a dream season is a program who has made a living performing at its best in the biggest moments.
The Stars own seven championship rings heading into tomorrow’s run. No. 1. Oklahoma City is looking to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since former member Union (Tenn.) accomplished the feat in 2009 and 2010.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CDT, and the contest will be aired live, nationwide on ESPN3.com.
In tonight’s matchup, the Tigers were able to build a nine-point halftime lead, 31-22, by creating 12 Freed-Hardeman turnovers. Strong Campbellsville defense during the first 20 minutes also limited the Lady Lions to just 10-of-34 (29.4 percent) shooting in the first half, including 1-for-11 from deep.
The Tigers put together a smooth offensive attack by shooting 41.4 percent from the floor (12-for-29), while making 5-of-8 from the charity stripe.
At the break, Campbellsville’s Emily Fox led all scorers with 10. Freed-Hardeman’s first-half scoring was spread through six players, with Kim Mallory leading the way with five points.
The final session began much like the first half, as the Lady Tigers built its lead to a game-high 10 points at the 16:30 mark (36-26), but the Lady Lions would not go quietly.
Less than 2 ½ minutes later, Campbellsville’s advantage had shrunk to one at 36-35 after an and-one by Grace Alonso de Armino – who had to sit with 4:24 remaining in the first stanza after picking up her third personal foul.
Campbellsville was able to respond and push its lead back to double-digits (47-37) with just 5:30 standing in the way of a visit in the national championship final.
Like two prized fighters, Freed-Hardeman had one last big punch left.
The next 4:09 of game action was all Lady Lions, as they roared back to tie the game at 50 apiece with 81 seconds left on the clock. Mallory grabbed a missed free throw by Taleeah Cross before getting fouled and going to the line herself to tie the game up with a pair of freebies.
Twenty-one seconds later, Lindsey Burd of Campbellsville banked in a shot from the paint to give her team the lead for good. She also iced the game in the final seconds at the line, sending the Lady Tigers into Tuesday evening’s title bout.
Fox led the Lady Tigers with 13 on the night, and was one of three Campbellsville athletes at 10-or-more points scored – Burd (12) and Daizah Kimberland chipped in 10. The bench was a big key as well, with Campbellsville owning a 19-9 mark in bench scoring.
Defensively, the Lady Tigers separated themselves with 14 steals.
The Lady Lions (35-2) close the book on 2014-15 with the defeat. All seven players who played hit the stat sheet for Freed-Hardeman, with Cross holding a team-high 15 points. Senior Forward Hayley Newby ends her career on a 14-point, 14 rebound display, helping Freed-Hardeman to a 49-34 advantage on the glass.
It was the first loss for the Lady Lions since the first game of the season back on Nov. 4, 2014 to Martin Methodist (Tenn.), a streak of 35-consecutive contests.
It all comes to an end tomorrow night as a new champion will be crowned.
“I just feel like we are paying the dues, cashing the check that all these kids that have played before us (wrote),” Colvin said. “This win is for so many kids, so many kids’ families and everybody that has contributed to our program.”