WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Hopes of a NCCAA national championship ended when Union University’s LaTesa McLaughlin hit a desperation 3-pointer after the Lady Flames had cut the Lady Bulldog lead down to 63-60 with 1:30 remaining.
“That was a killer,” said the deeply disappointed Lee coach Marty Rowe after the 73-64 loss and his Lady Flames had to settle for a second-place finish in the NCCAA Championship. “We did everything we could to defend and she makes that shot. But never sell girls short. They battled until the final seconds.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses,” added Rowe. “But our first two games in this tournament against the host Grace team and then against a physical Roberts Wesleyan team took a lot out of our girls. Give Union credit, they have a great team and a great coach, as witnessed in the four games we have played this season.”
Lee led early in the contest by as much as four points at the 14:56 mark. But Union came firing back to grab a 38-33 lead at the half. That lead grew to 11 points with 11:51 remaining in the game. The Lady Flames staged one final rally before coming up short.
The Lady Bulldogs hurt the Lady Flames with deadly field goal shooting (52 percent). They also cashed in on 48 percent from behind the arc (10-of-21). They were just as strong from the free-throw line, canning 15-of-17.
Lee struggled from behind the arc the entire afternoon and could convert just 5-of-22 attempts. For the game, Rowe’s crew shot 39 percent from the field (20-of-51). From the free-throw line, they made good on 19-of-23.
Hollie German, who was named NCCAA Player of the Year, finished with 20 points and six assists. Jenna Adams, who earned a spot on the All-American team, countered with 19 points and eight rebounds. Rachel Lockhart finished with 10 points and Myriah Iles came off the bench to score eight.
Amy Philamlee was a perfect 10-of-10 from the line and tallied 24 points. McLaughlin, who was named the MVP of the national tournament, poured in 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished off four assists. Astrid Huttemann followed with 12 markers but it was Chelsea Bodiford who came off the bench and hurt the Lady Flames badly with three treys and nine points.
“They out-scored us 27-11 in points off the bench and that was a big difference,” injected Rowe. “We have not had that happen to us many times this year. I think our legs just finally gave out on us. We played such a tough schedule the entire year.”
The well-played game saw Lee commit only seven turnovers and Union was guilty of just nine. The Lady Bulldogs held a 27-26 edge in rebounds.
Rowe admitted that losing this group of seniors hurt worse than losing the game. “They are special to us and the entire Lee community. That’s the last time I’ll coach them on the court but I will always be there for them when they need me. In our very first year of NCAA Division II play, we won the Gulf South championship and no one can ever take that away from us.”
Both Lee and Union finish the basketball season with identical 25-6 records and Saturday represents many more exciting encounters between the two classy Gulf South schools.