INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – No. 2 Shawnee State (Ohio) pushed its first round winning streak to six-straight with a 77-69 victory against No. 7 Langston (Okla.) Wednesday afternoon at the 2016 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship. The 36th annual event is taking place at the Silverstein Eye Centers arena for the second-straight year.
The Bears (29-5), who are appearing in the national championship for the sixth time since making the jump to Division I in 2010-11, advance to play the winner of No. 3 Columbia (Mo.) and No. 6 Baker (Kan.) Friday at 12:30 p.m. CDT.
“I have to give credit to Langston, they are very well coached and were able to put together some runs late in the game,” said Shawnee State head coach Jeff Nickel. “We had to rely on our team defense and get some big stops down the stretch. We will have to look at our match-up and see what we can do, we have got a lot of flexibility on our team, so we will have to find an advantage and play off our strengths"
After a tight first quarter that saw six ties and five lead changes, the Mid-South Conference (MSC) champions found its stride on offense midway through the second quarter when Ali Zieverink sparked a 16-5 run with a jumper in the lane. Madison Ridout was the catalyst during the stretch, scoring eight of her 10 first half points to help the Bears to a game high 15-point lead, 37-22.
However, Langston responded quickly closing out the period with a 17-6 run of their own to make it a 43-39 game at the break. T’Keya Mason was the top scorer for the Lions in the first half with 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting. Free throws were key for Langston in the first 20 minutes with an 11-for-11 effort.
Langston cut the lead to 43-42 when Che’Ron Lewis nailed a 3-pointer to open the second half, however the Lions failed to tie or take the lead the rest of the way.
Depth also played a role in the contest, as Shawnee State’s bench outscored Langston, 19-5, highlighted by a 12-point effort from Jonessa Moore. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native had scored in double-digits only five times previously entering the game.
Overall, Shawnee State shot 43.1 percent (28-for-65) from the field and 33.3 percent (5-for-15) from beyond the arc. The Bears held a 44-41 edge in rebounding, while the two sides both turned the ball over 14 times.
Zieverink – the co-MSC Player of the Year – entered the game leading the NAIA in scoring at 22.9 points per game. The senior forward fell four points shy of her season average, but still was tied for the team lead with 18 points. Zieverink added seven rebounds, two assists and one block.
In addition to Zieverink, four other Bears scored in double figures – Ridout (18 points), Ashton Lovely (17 points) and Moore (12 points). Lovely and Ridout paced the squad in rebounding with eight boards each.
Langston was led in scoring by Lewis with 23 points. The Cushing, Okla., native also grabbed 10 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season and second-consecutive. Darreion Clark added 16 points and Mason chipped in 14 points in the loss.
The Lions (20-8) were appearing in the national championship for the 13th time in program history.