FRANKFORT, Ky. – Vanguard's Russ Davis, one of the NAIA's most successful coaches, has been known to bring nearly as much intensity on the sideline as his teams do on the floor. On Friday, however, in the 2013 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championships, he got to relax a little as his squad coasted past William Woods (Mo.) (26-7), 85-60, to punch its ticket to the quarterfinal round of the tournament.
"I thought we had 40 minutes of focused attention," Davis said. "This was a complete team win. Everyone shared the ball and made the extra pass. We executed our offense to perfection."
Davis got double-digits from four of his starters in the game. Senior Chelsea Alfafara (Dana Point, Calif.) chose the perfect time to heat up, draining five from downtown to score 17 points for Vanguard. She was 5-for-8 from beyond the arc in the contest. Junior Nicole Ballestero (Orange, Calif.) managed four long balls of her own (4-for-6) and finished with a game-high 25 points.
Esther Timmermans (Melbourne, Australia) and Alison Drennan (Wheelers Hill, Australia) managed 16 and 15 points, respectively, while their classmate and countrywoman senior Maree Drennan (Wheelers Hill, Australia) led the Lions' rebounding effort with nine boards. A. Drennan hauled five offensive rebounds off of the glass and was two total rebounds shy of the double-double.
Alfafara, Ballestero and A. Drennan dished six assists apiece in the victory.
Vanguard dominated a majority of the first half, aided in large by seven 3-pointers. The Lions opened the game with a 14-4 run, capped by a Ballestero three. Back-to-back baskets, including an old fashioned 3-point play, by William Woods' Pricila Santos, cut the deficit back to 14-9. The Lions opened the gap with a barrage of 3-point baskets to extend the advantage to 42-21 with 2:49 left in the period. The Owls' Stephanie Copelin sank a jumper two minutes later to make it 42-29, but a pair of A. Drennan free throws with three seconds remaining gave Vanguard a 44-29 lead at the half.
The momentum continued into the second period with the Blue and Gold stretching its lead to a game-high 31 points (71-40) following a Timmermans' bucket at the 10:14 mark. WWU cut the gap to 25 on three more occasions and, fittingly, 25 was the margin as time expired.
Vanguard finished the game shooting 51.6 percent (16-of-33) from the field. The Lions nailed 12 3-pointers - three shy of tying the championship record set by former-NAIA member Union (Tenn.) in 2010.
"We came into the game focusing on intensity and defense," Alfafara said. "They struggled with our trap and we converted on the offensive end by sticking open shots. Our aggressiveness and intensity are what won us the game. We are happy about this win, but our team is already focusing on our elite 8 game tomorrow."
With the win, the Pride (25-3) improve to 9-0 all-time in the national championship second round. The Lions will face top-ranked Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) (33-1) in the 3:00 p.m. PST quarterfinal game on Saturday.
Freed-Hardeman's only loss came against College of the Ozarks, 74-71 (OT) on January 3rd. The FHU Lions have won 20-consecutive contests.
The Golden State Athletic Conference boasts two teams in the quarterfinal. Westmont advanced on Friday with its 77-70 win over Rogers State (Okla.).
Parts of this release taken from naia.org: http://www.naia.org/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=27900&ATCLID=206783160