WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Will Play for NAIA Title Tuesday
JACKSON, Tenn. – NAIA No. 20 Trevecca Nazarene (23-11) faced a familiar foe in the NAIA Semifinals on Monday night. No. 7 Freed-Hardeman (29-8) stood between the Trojans and their first ever National Championship game at the 28th Annual NAIA DI Women's Basketball National Championships. Trevecca defeated Freed 69-59 and will advance to the NAIA National Title game on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
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Two sets of back-to-back three-pointers helped lift the Trojans of Trevecca Nazarene to the victory. Freshman forward K.C. Van Atta and sophomore guard Christian Gibson hit from long distance on consecutive possessions, part of a 16-0 run that spanned less than four minutes to give the Trojans a 26-10 lead with 9:42 to play. Freed-Hardeman battle back to within seven points at halftime, trailing just 36-29 at the break, and the Lady Lions scored the first two baskets of the second half to cut the lead to 36-33 with 17:22 to play in the game.
Six minutes later, with Freed-Hardeman trailing by just four points at 44-40, Van Atta hit another pair of three-pointers on back-to-back Trojan possessions in the midst of a 10-2 run that pushed the lead back to double-digits at 54-42 with 9:35 remaining. Senior guard Mariska Reed sank a three-pointer with 4:45 left after Freed-Hardeman cut the lead to 55-48 with 5:23 left, and Van Atta's fifth trey of the contest with 2:08 to play gave Trevecca Nazarene its largest lead of the second half at 64-50 with 2:08 to play.
Van Atta finished with a team-high 16 points, going five-of-nine from three-point range, and the Trojans shot 45 percent (nine-for-20) from beyond the arc for the game. Reed added 14 points with a pair of three-pointers, and senior guard Kristin Archie added 12 points and a game-high five assists. Sophomore guard Abby Lawson came off the bench for nine points, five rebounds and four assists.
Freed-Hardeman was led by sophomore forward Jana Cross, who tallied team-highs of 17 points and nine rebounds, and she and senior forward Meredith McLemore combined to shoot 16-of-27 from the field for the Lady Lions. McLemore finished with 16 points, and senior guard Megan Thompson added 10 points, eight rebounds and a team-high four assists, as well as the game-high in steals with two. Freed-Hardeman made its 12th consecutive NAIA Tournament appearance with this year's Final Four run, and the semifinal defeat drops the Lady Lions to a final 29-8 overall mark.
Trevecca Nazarene, which had never before been a Final Four participant but had been to each of the past three quarterfinals, improves to 23-11 on the season heading into Tuesday's 6:30 p.m. title game, where the Trojans will take on the winner of the second semifinal contest between Union (Tenn.) University and Vanguard (Calif.) University.
K.C. Van Atta led the team with 16 points and was joined in double figures by Mariska Reed (14) and Kristin Archie (12). Jennifer Bognar led the team with nine rebounds and two blocks. Archie led the team with five assists. K.C. Van Atta was 5-9 from three-point range.
Gary Van Atta Quotes
“We have played our best defense of the season this week and it has made a difference. We also have a balanced scoring attack and that makes us difficult to defend at times.”
“No matter who we play we’ll have to continue to play the way we have to win.”
“Before the season I said this might be our most talented team. Not many people believed me and maybe not even the team. They do now because this team has worked hard and overcome some tough losses against good teams early in the season.”
“Tonight is was a our defense and taking good shots. We also continued to rebound well against a team that always does a good job on the boards.”
Trevecca’s seniors are now 103-43 in their career. The women’s program has won 20 games in a season seven times. All seven 20-win seasons have come in the last nine years. This 2008 senior class is the first to have four 20-win seasons. Gary Van Atta has three 20-win seasons in his first three years at Trevecca. His three-year TNU record is 81-23.
This is Trevecca’s ninth consecutive trip to the NAIA Women's Basketball Championships. For head coach Gary Van Atta, this is the eighth time he has taken a team to the NAIA National Tournament. This is his third trip with the Trojans. He previously led Montevallo (now NCAA D-II) to five consecutive NAIA tournaments. He led Montevallo to the Fab Four, two Elite Eight's and one Sweet Sixteen. In all, Van Atta has a 15-7 record at the NAIA Tournament. Including Trevecca, Van Atta has led five teams to the Elite Eight round. The Trojans are 13-6 in NAIA Tournament play. Trevecca has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen (2000) round once, the Elite Eight (2005, 2006, 2007) three times, and now the National Championship this year.
The Lions have a 18-9 advantage in the series and have won eight of the last 12 meetings.
All games are broadcast over 89.1 and 91.5 WNAZ FM. All games are aired on the internet atwww.wnaz.com All home games have a statistical webcast available at www.tnutrojans.com