With only five returners from last year’s NAIA Division I national championship team, Oklahoma City University coach Latricia Trammell was not quite sure what to expect from her Stars.
They lost their first game of the season but won 29 of their next 30, including a 77-57 victory against 2013 champion Westmont (Calif.) on Monday night tat the Independence Events Center.
The Stars will play at 6:30 Tuesday night for the title, and it will be streamed live on ESPN3.
If they win, it would be the Stars’ third title in four years and eighth overall.
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“It’s unbelievable honestly,” Trammell said. “That shows you the toughness, team chemistry and willpower for this team to be here. I am really excited about this team.”
The teams traded baskets early, but Oklahoma City took a 10-point lead into halftime. The Stars pushed it to 17 points before seeing their lead whittled four points with 10 minutes left. Trammell called a timeout to regroup, and the Stars finished on a 19-7 run to put the game away.
“We started leaving their shooters open and had a little lull there, but we picked it back up,” Trammell said. “They came back and responded well.”
Marisha Wallace went seven for 12 from the field and led Oklahoma City with 18 points. Rateska Brown followed with 16 points, Yvonte Neal had 14, and Ouleymatou Coulibaly joined them in double figures with 12.
Kristin Karr led Westmont with 24 points, which included four three-pointers. Westmont, which entered the tournament as a No. 4 seed, finished 27-7.
Campbellsville 56, Freed-Hardeman 52
For the third time in five seasons, Campbellsville faced Freed-Hardeman for a chance to advance in the NAIA Division I tournament.
This time around, Campbellsville (Ky.) emerged victorious and will play for the title at 6:30 tonight.
“You just don’t think you can do it,” coach Ginger Colvin said. “Freed-Hardeman is an unbelievable team, and every one of their kids is so solid. To come in and know you beat a team like that makes you really proud of your kids and what they accomplished.”
Freed-Hardeman, the No. 1 seed, tied the score at 50-50 with 1:21 left, but Lindsey Burd closed the door with four straight free throws in the final minute.
Campbellsville had three players finish in double figures: Emily Fox with 13 points, Burd 11 and Daizah Kimberland 10.
Freed-Hardeman finished 35-2, which included an NAIA-best 35-game winning streak.