Richmond, VA – The Virginia Union University Panthers (28-2) earned the 2016 NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Championship Title with a 91-77 victory over the Hilltoppers of West Liberty University (29-3) on Monday evening at Barco Stevens Hall. The victory advances the Panthers to the NCAA Elite Eight Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
|VUU Coach AnneMarie Gilbert|
Kiana Johnson led all scorers and broke VUU's single-season game high with 49 points. The senior guard added eight assists and six steals in the victory. Lady Walker and Taylor White followed with double-doubles, collecting 11 points each and 13 and 14 rebounds, respectively.
Offensively for the Hilltoppers, Liz Flowers notched thirty-three points, eight assists, and six rebounds. Defensively, Keirra Simpson led snagging 12 rebounds, 7 offensive and 5 defensive.
Although the Hilltoppers were able to outscore the Panthers in points off turnovers (25-19) and second chance points (18-15), the home Virginia Union team dominated the game with fast break points (31-14). VUU completed 50.8% of their field goal shots while WLU slipped at 36.6%. West Liberty paved the way making 81.3% in free-throws over Virginia Union's 75% completion.
At tip-off, West Liberty snagged the first possession and took no time going for the basket. The Hilltoppers' missed three-pointer was immediately followed by the first score of the game, two points by Panther Lady Walker. Soon enough, the Hilltoppers' leading scorer, Liz Flowers, hit the hoop for three-points with 6:63 remaining. Teammate Emily Bucon followed-up with her own jump from the arc to narrow the margin, but not to go unanswered. Kiana Johnson started her groove hitting back-to-back three-pointers. At the end of the first, West Liberty 30, Virginia Union 16.
In the second, the Panthers continued to control the pace of the game as Johnson went on a 4-0 run into the first two minutes of the quarter. WLU's Bucon stepped in for three and repeated the motion just moments later. West Liberty went back-and-forth with Virginia Union, but could not make up for the double-digit deficit that had been accrued. West Liberty 34, Virginia Union 49.
West Liberty started the third quarter with a foul by Liz Flowers as VUU's Jamika Ruffin took the line to make the pair. However, Johnson continued not letting up on the fatigued Hilltoppers. Kailee Howe connected with Flowers who took the lane with a layup for WLU just before Rhani Bell forced a turnover for her own VUU layup. With 5:09 remaining on the clock, Johnson hit her fourth three-pointer of the night and later gained the Panthers' greatest lead of 26 points with a jump shot at the three-minute mark. Rounding out the quarter, Flowers tallied back-to-back threes bringing West Liberty's trail 68-53.
Johnson assisted teammate Jayda Luckie for the Panthers' first mark of the fourth. West Liberty made their effort at a run and managed a pass in to Kierra Simpson at post for the basket, followed by a 3-pointer by Johnie Olkosky. At the end of the fourth, Johnson stepped up to the free-throw line and surpassed her previous single-game season high (45 pts.).
The Virginia Union Panthers will advance to the NCAA Elite Eight Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Panthers will face the Falcons of Bentley University at 3:30 p.m. on March 22, 2016.