SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Saint Francis joined elite company Tuesday, becoming just the third team in the history of NAIA Division II women’s basketball to finish a season unbeaten.
The top-ranked Cougars downed College of the Ozarks (Mo.) 75-68 in the championship game at the Tyson Events Center, capping a 38-0 campaign.
Saint Francis joins Morningside College (2009) and Indiana Wesleyan (2007) as undefeated national champions.
I’m just really proud of our kids, Saint Francis Coach Gary Andrews said. They just kept getting better and better. They had a little adversity losing Akyah (Taylor) after the 15th game of the year, but they didn’t let it bother them. They just kept working hard, playing together as a team and got better and better.
Ozarks played a great game tonight, we had to go out there and earn it. I’m proud of the way we played.
Saint Francis captured its first national title while playing in its second title game.
The Cougars lost to Shawnee State 80-65 in 1999.
Tournament most valuable player Skylarr Shurn poured in 30 points – four shy of her career high – while Jennelle Wilson, another all-tournament pick, added 19 points and Brooke Ridley, a second-team all-tourney pick, tallied 13 points.
This was our No. 1 goal all season long, Shurn said. We kept winning games and before you know it we were undefeated. We needed one more, and we got it done today.
Shurn, scoring on a combination of quick strikes to the hoop and mid-range jumpers, hit 11 of 24 shots and was 10 of 13 from the free throw line.
The Cougars finished 23 of 31 from the stripe.
Saint Francis clung to a 37-36 halftime lead but got some breathing room late in the second half thanks to cold Ozarks shooting. The Bobcats from Point Lookout, Mo., missed their first eight shots of the second half, allowing Saint Francis to score the first seven points and take a 44-36 lead.
Saint Francis still led 55-46 midway through the half, but Ozarks went on a 6-0 run, trimming it to three points.
That’s when reserve Emily Montgomery canned a huge three-pointer from the corner, making it 58-52. The trey was sandwiched around two key turnovers, the second leading to two free throws by Wilson, which stretched it to an eight-point advantage.
Ozarks (27-10) didn’t go quietly, hitting three three-pointers in the final minute, but it wasn’t enough and the Bobcats slipped to 0-5 all time in championship games.
Alice Heinzler, a freshman, paced Ozarks with 22 points.