JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–The Union University Lady Bulldogs claimed their second straight NAIA women’s basketball national championship and third in program history March 21 with a 79-62 victory over Lubbock Christian University.
Union finished 31-6, capping off its sixth straight 30-plus win season. The Lady Bulldogs have won 10 straight games in the national tournament and have defeated their tournament foes the past two years by an average of 15.9 points. Union edged Oklahoma City University, 67-63, to win last year’s title.
“I definitely enjoyed the last four minutes of this game better. Last year I was too nervous during the final minutes,” said Union head coach Mark Campbell, whose team needed two free throws in the final seconds to earn the 2005 title.
Lubbock Christian (23-12), which entered the tournament as one of the six seeds, knocked off two No. 1 seeds, a No. 2 seed, and a No. 3 seed to get to its first-ever title game. This marked Unions’ fifth trip to the final game (1993, 1997, 1998, 2005, 2006), with the Lady Bulldogs winning in each of their last three trips.
After a back-and-forth start, Union took the lead for good (27-26) on a Jennifer Henson 3-pointer. Her shot sparked a surge that put the Lady Bulldogs up 51-30 at halftime. Union hit five of eight 3-pointers in the first half.
Lubbock Christian got as close as eight points (54-46) with 11:26 left in the second half, but Union went back up by double digits on a three-pointer by freshman guard Jessica Graves. Over the next five minutes, Union put the game out of reach as it posted an 18-2 run to take its biggest lead of the game at 77-51 with 4:14 left in the game.
The Lady Bulldogs were led by Josephine Owino, who posted her second straight double-double of the tournament with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Natanya Smith added 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Ena Daniels added 10 points.
In a tournament where Union’s 3-point shooting (43 percent) was a key, it was Owino and Smith’s combined 40 points and 24 rebounds in the post that sealed Union’s second straight NAIA championship.
“We go with two posts when we have two that we need to match up against,” Campbell said. “I thought they really did a good job down there. We’ve never had a game where both [Owino and Smith] did what they did tonight in the same game.”
Lubbock Christian was led by Sierra Wilcox with 19 points and nine rebounds. Casie Legg added 14 points and Ashley Hunter tallied 10 points.
Union’s Owino, Daniels, and Merideth Richardson were named to the NAIA All-Tournament Team. Campbell, the NAIA’s active winningest coach, was named the NAIA coach of the year for the second straight season.
— Based on reporting by Steven Aldridge