FRANKFORT, Ky. - (Box Score |Bracket | Postgame Comments-Video) Westmont captured the program's first-ever national championship tonight with a 71-65 win over Lee (Tenn.) in the championship final of the 2013 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship at the Frankfort Convention Center.
Westmont, who finishes the season with a 30-4 overall record, sealed the institution's eighth national crown when tournament Most Valuable Player Tugce Canitez connected on a runner in the lane to give the Warriors a 71-65 lead with nine seconds left. Lee (34-3) had its last two opportunities blocked as the final seconds ran off the clock.
Canitez and fellow forward Kelsie Sampson paced Westmont with 25 points each, while guard Esther Lee, who was named to the All-Tournament First Team, scored 12 points on a 4-of-5 effort from beyond the arc. Canitez, who added a game-high 20 rebounds to earn her 17th double-double of the season, ended her senior season four points shy of tying the Westmont career scoring record.
Lee's Hollie German set the tone early as she scored the Lady Flames first nine points, including her first of four 3-pointers to open the game. The Lady Flames grew their lead to eight, 16-8, seven minutes into the first half on another German three.
However, Westmont took its first lead of the night, 17-16, with a 9-0 run capped by two free throws by Kelsie Sampson. The two teams traded runs over the next few minutes before Westmont's high-pressure defense began to upset Lee's tempo.
The Warriors held Lee, who shot 50 percent from the field up until the eight minute mark, to only two field goals over the final eight minutes of the first half. The drought allowed Westmont to go on a 15-2 run before German hit a fade-away jumper as the buzzer sounded to make it 34-30 Westmont at the half.
Westmont finished the opening period shooting 48 percent (12-of-25) from the floor, while Lee limped into the half with a 36.4 percent (12-of-33) field goal percentage. Canitez and German both scored 14 points in the half.
Lee came out of the locker room as the aggressor, scoring four quick points to tie the score 34-34 at the 19:31 mark. The Lady Flames tied the score twice more during the period, but each time Westmont scored on its next possession. The Warriors earned their first double-digit lead of the game with 4:42 left on Sampon's 25th point of the night.
Back-to-back buckets by Jenna Adams and a 3-pointer from German cut the Westmont advantage back to three points with under a minute remaining, however it proved too little too late.
Westmont finished the game shooting 47.4 percent (27-of-57) from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. The Warriors out rebounded the Lady Flames, 45-27.
Lee, who was appearing in its first-ever national championship final, shot 39.1 percent (25-of-64) for the game and struggled from 3-point range (8-of-25). German paced the team with 27 points, while Adams was second with 19 points. Both German and Adams were named to the All-Tournament First Team.
This was the 43rd national championship won by a GSAC team.
Westmont's Kirsten Moore was chosen as the NAIA Women's Basketball Coach of the Year. Nicole Ballestero, of Vanguard, received NAIA All-Tournament First Team honors. The complete list of honorees is below.
2013 NAIA All-Tournament Team
Natalie Schumpert, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)
Hollie German, Lee (Tenn.)
Jenna Adams, Lee (Tenn.)
Nicole Ballestero, Vanguard (Calif.)
Esther Lee, Westmont (Calif.)
Jessica Pace, Cumberland (Tenn.)
Kelsey Canavan, Lubbock Christian (Texas)
Nicole Hampton, Lubbock Christian (Texas)
Lauren Gober, Oklahoma City
Cydney Tibbitts, Westminster (Utah)
Championship Most Valuable Player
Tugce Canitez, Wesmont (Calif.)
NAIA Hustle Award
Maria Bagwell, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)
Coach of the Year
Kirsten Moore, Wesmont (Calif.)