WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Fall in NAIA Title Game
JACKSON, Tenn. – NAIA No. 20 Trevecca Nazarene (23-12) made their first ever National Championship game at the 28th Annual NAIA DI Women's Basketball National Championships on Tuesday night. Trevecca’s run to a title came up short as Vanguard University (29-5) claimed the 2008 NAIA Championship 72-59.
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History was not on its side, but second-seeded Vanguard (Calif.) University became the NAIA's first-ever Division I Women's Basketball National Champion from the state of California, defeating sixth-seeded Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) University, 72-59, in Tuesday's national title game.
Vanguard never trailed in the contest, with junior forward Lauren Gregory winning the opening tip and hitting the first of 11 three-pointers for Vanguard, part of a 9-2 run that included the first of six three-pointers made by senior guard Melissa Cook. A pair of Cook free throws pushed the lead to double-digits for the first time at 29-19 with 4:13 to play in the first half. Trevecca Nazarene freshman forward K.C. Van Atta closed the gap to six points at 36-30 with 18 seconds left in the half, but Vanguard senior guard Bridgette Reyes knocked down a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to give the Lions a 38-30 halftime lead.
Van Atta hit another three-pointer to open the second half, cutting the lead to 38-33, but Cook and freshman guard Sarah Boyd hit back-to-back three-pointers to cap an 8-0 run to push the lead to 46-33 less than two minutes into the second half. Trevecca Nazarene twice trimmed the lead back into single digits, but Cook answered both times with three-pointers, the second giving Vanguard a 54-42 lead with 10:02 to play. Cook's final three-pointer of the game gave Vanguard its largest lead of the game at 64-49 with 2:36 to play.
For the second straight game, Vanguard shot over 45 percent from three-point range, knocking down 11-of-24 (46 percent) three-pointers in the win over Trevecca Nazarene after sinking 10-of-22 (46 percent) in Monday's 74-72 semifinal win over previously unbeaten and No. 1-seeded Union (Tenn.) University.
"We addressed (Trevecca Nazarene) immediately after last night's win," said Davis. "We talked about how good Trevecca Nazarene is and what they do well. They were able to take Union to overtime, so they're obviously good enough to beat anybody in the country. We knew last night was a big win, but it didn't mean anything if we didn't take care of tonight."
It was also the second straight game in which the Lions shot better from three-point range than it did from inside the arc. Vanguard had an 18 percentage points difference between two-point and three-point field goals, making just 10-of-36 (28 percent) of its two-point attempts.
Trevecca Nazarene, which has made four straight quarterfinals appearances, suffers its second straight season-ending defeat at the hands of Vanguard after last year suffering an 82-56 defeat to the Lions. Senior guard Mariska Reed scored a team-high 19 points for Trevecca Nazarene, and senior center Jennifer Bognar added a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double. Van Atta added 12 points, all on three-pointers, to go with five rebounds.
Vanguard is the first NAIA champion located outside Oklahoma or Tennessee since 1993, and the Lions are the first program west of the Rockies to claim the NAIA Division I women's championship.
The championship game drew an attendance of 1,764, bringing the week-long tournament's total attendance to 20,530.
Trevecca’s seniors finish their careers with a 103-44 record. 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 81-24.
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 15-8 record at the NAIA Tournament. Including Trevecca, Van Atta has led five teams to the Elite Eight round. The Trojans are 13-7 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.
Gary Van Atta Quotes
“I thought the teams that played the best all week made the title game and the winner was going to be the team that could get into a rhythm first.”
“I’m so excited for our kids and for Trevecca. A program that restarted just 12 years ago reached the championship game.”
“We had a great year and I’m proud of our effort and focus this week. We have great fans and a great administration that displayed their support in many ways this week. We’ll rest up and start preparing for next season.”
“We say goodbye to three seniors that had a huge impact on our program. They signed off their career with this great run. They will be remembered as the team that made the first NAIA Championship Game in school history.”
“Vanguard is well coached and you combine that with their size and they are tough to handle when they shoot the ball like they did tonight. Some forget they have last year’s NAIA Player of the Year (Jessica Richter) still on their roster this year.”
“It isn’t a fluke that they beat 35-0 Union last night, they have been one of the top programs in the NAIA over the last few years.”
“They played this tournament like they were on a mission, they got beat last year in the semifinals as an undefeated team. They came in hungry and left with the title.”
“We only had three players score at the half. That is uncharacteristic of our team this year.