Freed-Hardeman Wins Defensive Battle against Carroll
The Lady Lions, who have appeared in 20-straight national championships, improve to 32-19 all-time at the national championship. Freed-Hardeman has reached at least the second round in 10 of the last 12 national championships. The Lady Lions will play the winner of No. 2 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) and No. 7 Martin Methodist (Tenn.) Friday at 9:45 p.m. CDT
“Sometimes people get to the nation tournament and they’re just not ready for the pressure of this kind of situation, and I think even the young ones we’ve got kept their composure and focus,” said Freed-Hardeman head coach Dale Neal. “Even though you’ve got the experience in being here, you have to play in the now. I think it was just the focus part of it. This is a team (Carroll) that we don’t match up well with. I thought our defense stretched out a put great pressure on them and we supported the posts at the right times.”
Despite the relatively low numbers on the scoreboard, American Midwest Conference Player of the Year Taleeah Cross of Freed-Hardeman had a strong offensive performance with 22 points, including 16 points in the second half. The junior guard was 9-for-21 from the field and chipped in four rebounds.
It was obvious in the first half that both programs rank among the top five nationally in scoring defense per game, as points were at a premium. Freed-Hardeman and Carroll combined for 35 points in the opening 20 minutes with neither club shooting greater than 32.1 percent from the floor. Turnovers hampered both sides, as the Fighting Saints had 10 miscues and the Lady Lions seven after two quarters.
A jumper by Freed-Hardeman’s Taleeah Cross with four seconds left closed opening frame and capped a 6-0 run to give the Lady Lions an 11-5 lead.
It was much of the same in the second stanza, as the clubs traded baskets until a small run by Freed-Hardeman pushed its lead to 21-11. Carroll ended the first half with a Cassidy Hashley 3-pointer – the Fighting Saints only make from distance in the first half – to make it 21-14 at the break.
After trading blows for the entire third quarter, Carroll tied the game – 34-34 – for the first time since the 6:36 when Kacie McKeon drilled a 3-pointer. The lead toggled back-and-forth until a Cross jumper in the lane gave Freed-Hardeman a 38-37 advantage, which proved to be the final lead change of the game.
Carroll kept the game close, however the Fighting Saints were outscored 7-1 over the final 1:46.
As a team, Freed-Hardeman shot 35.2 percent from the floor (19-for-54). The point total for the Lady Lions ties a season-low.
Kim Mallory, who ended the night with 10 points, was the only other Freed-Hardman player in double figures. Tiffany Pate was dominant on the glass for the Lady Lions, tying a season-high with 14 boards. The rebound total is tied for the fourth-most for a player at this year’s championship.
Carroll was led in scoring by Cassidy Hashley’s 12 points. Hannah Dean also ended the night in double-digits with 10 points.
Overall, the Fighting Saints shot 31.9 percent from the field.
With the loss, Carroll falls to 5-8 all-time at the national championship and fails to advance out of the first round for a second-consecutive season.
For more information on the national championship, click here.