FRANKFORT, Ky. - Westmont (27-4) forwards combined for 57 points as the number-one seeded Warriors posted a 77-70 win over fourth-seeded Rogers State of Oklahoma (24-10) in the second round of the NAIA Women's Basketball National Tournament. As a result of the win, the Warriors advance to tomorrow's quarterfinals where they will meet second-seeded Westminster of Utah (29-3).
"I am so proud of our team and how we played today," said Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore. "Rogers State is a phenomenal basketball team and extremely talented. Their game plan was to sag off of our fives and double Tugce (Canitez). But with the way that Kelsie Sampson and Lauren Sende played, Rogers State had to change that strategy and it set the tone for us. Kelsie came out with energy and intensity. When she got in foul trouble, Lauren came off the bench and kept up the pressure."
Canitez led the team with 30 points and 17 rebounds. She also recorded three assists and three steals. Sampson tallied 19 points and three boards. Sende collected eight points and two rebounds, playing all 11 of her minutes in the first half.
"It was definitely Lauren's best half of the year, but it doesn't surprise me at all," added Moore. "It was great to see her get an opportunity. When she was called on, she was ready. That is a tribute to the fact that she has worked hard. Even when she wasn't getting a lot of minutes, she would come in and do extra workouts and come in and watch film. She has continued to improve over her freshman year. For her to have an opportunity at the national tournament to come in and contribute is awesome. That shows how important her work ethic throughout the year has been."
After tying an NAIA Tournament single game record yesterday by making 17 free throws, Canitez made 12 of 15 from the charity stripe today. She also connected on eight of 13 from the floor including both of her attempts from three-point range. Sampson made nine of 16 from the floor while Sende was three of four.
"Tugce had an incredible game, again. She is a winner and is at her best when her best is needed. We were a great team today. We felt a lot more comfortable shooting in the arena today."
Canitez won the tip and then nailed a three on the Warriors' first possession. As it turned out, Westmont never relinquished the lead. Celina Gougis (7 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds) drained another three and Sampson scored twice from inside the arc as the Warriors started the game with a 10-0 run.
Rogers State pulled within two points twice around the five minute mark of the opening frame, but by halftime, Westmont was up by 13 points (38-25). In the second half, Westmont led by as much as 18 points and never by less than seven.
The Warriors outrebounded the Hillcats 41-33 while shooting 53.3 percent in the first half and 44.0 percent in the second.
With a return to the quarterfinals, Westmont has matched last year's performance at the national championship. A win would send the Warriors to the semifinals for the first time in the program's history, and avenge a loss from earlier this season.
"We are looking forward to another battle tomorrow and the opportunity to play Westminster again," said Moore. "They beat us by 33 in December and it is an opportunity for us to see how far we have come since then.
"We feel like we are a very different team than we were in December. We have the opportunity to see if that is the case. It will be a battle. Westminster is an excellent team and have so many people that can score. We are going to have to play excellent defense, but that is something we have been relying on since we played them last. Westminster is also an amazing defensive team. They are the number one defensive team in the NAIA."
The Griffins allowed their opponents an average of just 46.5 points per game while scoring an average of 64.8.
The rematch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. EDT/1:00 p.m. PDT.