Pikeville Punches Ticket to First-Ever Fab Four
The win propels Pikeville, which had never won a game in three previous trips to the national championship, into the Fab Four for the first time in program history. The Bears join national semifinal newcomers No. 6 Baker (Kan.) and No. 5 Benedictine (Kan.), which both won quarterfinal games earlier in the day. Pikeville’s next opponent will be the winner of No. 5 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and No. 2 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.). The game is scheduled to tip at 8 p.m. CDT on Monday.
Prior to Baker and Pikeville, Shawnee State in 2011 was the last No. 6 seed to reach the semifinals.
“Obviously, I’m ecstatic to be among the last four,” said Pikeville head coach Joanna McNamee. “I always say this is a player’s game and I give them all the credit, as coaches we just try to prepare them the best we can. My staff has been amazing putting in the work to get these ladies in position to win. I thought it was a sloppy, back-and-forth game, but we had some players step up, it feels great.”
Kandice Porter emerged as the star of the game for Pikeville. The junior forward tallied a season-high 23 points – one point shy of tying a career-best – on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor and a 7-for-9 effort at the charity stripe. Porter added five rebounds with three coming on the offensive end.
Kelah Eldridge was the only other Pikeville player in double figures with 19 points – 14 coming in the second half. Prior to tonight, Eldridge had scored 20 points through two games at the national championship. In total, eight of the 10 players that saw action for the Bears scored at least one point.
The first half was a neck-and-neck race between the two teams, as neither side claimed more than a seven-point lead through the first 20 minutes. Great Falls was the aggressor early in the first quarter, opening the game with a 13-7 run that was capped by a 3-pointer by Morgan Grier.
However, the Argos could not hold down Pikeville for long. The Bears, who feature one of the NAIA’s top offenses, scored the final eight points of the period en route to their first lead of the game since the opening basket, 15-13.
Pikeville’s offense continued clicking in the second stanza, extending its first quarter run to 15-3 to take a 22-16 lead at the 7:03 mark. Aundrea Matchen, who has been the Bears offensive leader all season, closed the stretch with a put-back jumper off a Prisha Rogers miss.
The game teeter-tottered the rest of the way before a basket by Great Falls’ Stephanie McDonagh as time expired made it 35-33 in favor of Pikeville at the intermission.
The first half stat sheet was nearly identical for the two clubs. Pikeville shot 36.8 percent (14-for-38) from the field, while Great Falls connected on 39.3 percent (11-for-28) of attempts. The Bears held a slight 22-20 edge in rebounding and had two less turnovers.
The third quarter was highly contested until a 6-0 run spanning the final 90 seconds of the period pushed Pikeville’s lead to 55-46. Prior to that, the lead had been no larger than five points.
The aforementioned run that closed the third quarter continued in to the fourth and grew to as much as a 13-6 stretch. A jumper by Matchen capped the surge to give Pikeville a 64-52 lead with 4:05 remaining. Great Falls pulled within five late in the quarter on a pair of McDonagh free throws, but failed to narrow the gap any further.
Overall, Pikeville converted 38.4 percent (28-of-73) of attempts from the field and shot 78.9 percent (15-for-19) at the free throw line. Arguably most important for the Bears tonight was rebounding, as they held a 47-36 advantage on the boards, including an 18-8 spread on the offensive glass.
McDonagh led the way for Great Falls with 22 points.
Great Falls concludes its season in the quarterfinals for the second-straight season. The Argos fall to 4-2 all-time at the national championship.
For more information on the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, click here.