Defending Champion Oklahoma City Squeaks Out Narrow Win
Oklahoma City (26-2) led 31-17 after the opening 20 minutes of play while they shot just over 28 percent in the process. It was the defense, however, that powered the Stars in the first half. Lewis-Clark State’s leading scorer in the opening frame, Brittany Tackett, posted just five points in the first half.
Things remained relatively close until midway through the first half. The Warriors were down by just six when the Stars began to turn-up the pressure. Oklahoma City went on a 12-2 run as it built a 14-point halftime lead.
The Warriors trailed by as many as 23 in the second half, but slowly chipped away at the lead. This final push resulted in the closest game of the Championship to this point. Lewis-Clark State went on an incredible 23-2 run, which spanned seven minutes, to make it a two-point, 55-53 deficit with just under eight minutes remaining.
As the Warriors heated-up, the Stars went cold. After two clutch free throws by sophomore Megan Risinger to tie the game at 55, it was a race to the finish as each shot was answered at the other end. Then, just a minute later, it was Risinger again that hit back-to-back shots from the charity stripe to give the Warriors a two-point advantage with 3:22 on the clock. The Tigard, Ore., native shot 79 percent on the year from the line.
The Stars responded in the minutes that followed. Oklahoma City ran-off six unanswered points to take a four-point lead with just over one minute remaining. The Warriors, however, came right back with two consecutive buckets from Caelyn Orlandi and Brittany Tackett to tie the game at 61 with 15 seconds remaining.
In its final possession, Oklahoma City had one final opportunity to grab the victory in regulation. Yvonne Neal pulled-up for the jumper with just three-tenths on a second remaining on the clock. The attempt came just short, but officials called a Warrior foul before time expired. The ensuing free throws became the difference in the game.
Ouleymatou Coulibaly sank both of her attempts after an official review of the game clock confirmed the time remaining in the contest as the Stars escaped to play another day.
Point guard Rateska Brown led Oklahoma City with a game-high 24 points. The senior from South Carolina went 6-12 from behind the arc on the day.
Yvonne Neal finished in double-figures with 15 points and rounded-out the double-digit point scorers for the Stars.
Warrior’s season leading scorer Tannis Fuller led her team in the game. The senior guard recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
With the victory, Oklahoma City will advance to the round of 16 on Friday to play No. 5-seed Shawnee State (Ohio). Tip-off is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. at the Independence Event Center.
With Wednesday’s victory, Oklahoma City University has won 18 consecutive NAIA Championship First Round games. Their last loss in the first round occurred in 1994 in a loss to Central State (Ohio), 69-64… Rateska Brown came one three-pointer shy of tying a career-high of seven in one game… The Stars have only been held to less than 70 points three times this season. Today’s win was their first victory of the season when held to less than 70… All four teams which were designated as the road team won their respective games in Wednesday’s first session