JACKSON, Tenn. — After stifling one of the NAIA’s hottest offensive attacks for 20 minutes, the Oklahoma Baptist University women saw their upset hopes dashed in less than two minutes, falling to sixth-ranked The Master’s College 71-55 Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament in Oman Arena.
The Lady Bison survived 14 first half turnovers to hold a 29-28 lead at intermission. Freshman guard Keely Tolin drained a three-pointer with 1:20 left in the half to give OBU only its second lead of the game. But the Mustangs needed less than two minutes of the second half to forge a seven-point lead.
All-America center Amy Van Doesburg scored on a put-back with 19:25 remaining to give The Master’s a 30-29 lead. Grace Tappe stole the ball and scored 15 seconds later. Kinsley Mittel stole the ensuing inbound pass and was fouled, leading to two free throws. Mittel scored on a field goal with 18:07 left and OBU trailed 36-29.
Tetyana Klimenko hit a jumper for OBU with 17:42 remaining to cut the deficit to five, but the Mustangs, benefiting from four more turnovers, moved out to an 11-point lead at 42-31.
“You’ve got to take care of the basketball,” said OBU head coach John McCullough. “We knew they would press like that, but we didn’t respond well.”
OBU settled down offensively, and kept the game even over the next seven minutes, and trailed 53-41 with 9 minutes left, before sophomore Rachel Heins nailed back-to-back treys to cut the margin to 53-47, but OBU would get no closer.
The Lady Bison finished the game with 27 turnovers. They forced the Mustangs into 13 first half turnovers, but The Master’s committed only four turnovers in the second period.
TMC, which averaged 47.7 percent shooting from the field, hit only 32.8 percent in the contest against a Lady Bison team that led the Sooner Athletic Conference in scoring defense for the season. The Mustangs compensated for poor field goal shooting by connecting on 19 of 26 free throws. OBU tallied 8 points from the foul line on 14 free throws.
Foul trouble hurt the Lady Bison, as Layla Schwarz and Klimenko spent most of the half on the bench. Schwarz picked up her fourth foul with 14:58 remaining and Klimenko was whistled for her fourth with 14:04 left. Schwarz came back in with 7:21 remaining and hit a field goal with 6:52 left, but fouled out at the 6:46 mark.
“We couldn’t establish a presence inside, and we thought we could have an advantage there,” said McCullough. Schwarz and Klimenko each finished with six points.
“We battled the whole way,” said McCullough. “I’m proud of our team’s effort. I’m sad for our seniors. They have contributed a lot to our program.”
The game was the final contest for five OBU seniors. Trena Robbins, Kelly Welborn, and Shannon Plumb completed their four-year careers, while Schwarz was a three-year starter for the Lady Bison and Klimenko played two seasons for the team.
Welborn came off the bench to lead OBU with 11 points in the game. Plumb added 4 points. Robbins did not score, but pulled down five rebounds in her final game for the Lady Bison.
Heins finished with eight points, and junior guards Tabitha Eaton and Priscilla Alves scored six and four, respectively. Tolin and sophomore forward Lena Brenning scored five points each.
TMC senior guard Tiffany Webb, who averaged nearly 20 points per game in the regular season, led all scorers with 21 points. Kinsley Mittel added 20 and Van Doesburg scored 11. TMC entered the contest averaging 78.6 points per game.
OBU, which finished fourth in the conference regular season standings, ended the season with a 22-9 record. The Master’s College improved to 26-5 and will face Georgetown (Ky.) at 9 a.m. Friday in second round action.
The Lady Bison have appeared in the NAIA tourney for 10 straight years, and have a 9-9 overall record in Jackson. Only Southern Nazarene University and Union University have more consecutive appearances at the championship tournament.