Boasting a 33-2 record, seventh-ranked Lee advanced to the national semifinals for the first time since 2010 and wasted no time in showing the Stars, ranked No. 2 in the final NAIA regular season poll, that they meant business. Before the first four minutes had passed, the Lady Flames were on top 8-0 and never trailed in the huge 59-48 victory, to extend their winning streak to 16 straight games.
Lee will get a full day of rest on Sunday and return to the Frankfort Convention Center for a 6 p.m. battle against the winner of No. 3 Lubbock Christian (31-3) and sixth-ranked Cumberland University (32-2) on Monday. Lubbock and Cumberland were playing a late Saturday night game.
No.1-ranked Freed-Hardeman and fourth-ranked Westmont (Calif.) will square off in Monday’s other semifinal contest. Freed Hardeman (34-1) defeated eighth-ranked Vanguard (Calif.) 60-49 Saturday, while Westmont slipped past No. 5 Westminster (Utah) 39-36 in the quarterfinal round.
Rowe was overjoyed with his team's performance against a club that had won 25 straight before losing to Lubbock in the Sooner Conference tournament.
"Amazing, amazing, amazing," he said over and over after his club defeated the No. 1 seeded team. "I know I've said it many times, but I'm so proud of this team. They came into this game believing they could win and battled a tremendous Oklahoma City team for the entire 40 minutes."
The defensive gem saw the Lady Flames lead at the break, 27-21 and extend the lead to 13 points at the 15:15 mark. As expected, the Stars fought right back behind the post play of Katie Hall (24 points) and cut the Lee lead to 48-45 with 2:39 remaining.
A key bucket and the only score of the game by Brooke Hamby helped turn Lee back in the winning direction and, from that point on, powered by free-throw shooting by Jenna Adams and Hollie German, put the sweet victory away.
German and Adams paced the one-two scoring punch. Both had 18 points. Adams, who sat out most of the first half with foul problems, scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half. German made three treys and canned 7-of-9 free throws. She also grabbed six rebounds.
But it was defense and rebounding that carried Lee into the Final Four. Rowe praised the effort of senior Mary Jackson, who had 11 rebounds to go along with six points.
"It was an entire team effort. All our post players were outstanding (Adams, Myriah Iles, Karley Miller),” he said. “We out-rebounded the tallest team in the tournament (46-35) and also held them to only 35 percent shooting. They all gave it the extra effort."
Rowe also pointed out that his team won despite not shooting well (33 percent).
"We hit only 4-of-27 3-pointers but were still able to find a way to win,” Rowe said. “Our best shooting days are ahead of us in this tournament."
The Lady Flames defense held Oklahoma City's leading scorer Lauren Gober to only nine points. No other Star was close to double figures.
"It doesn't matter who we play on Monday, our girls will be ready," said Rowe. "I had no doubt that our girls and staff felt good about our chances today. They were well prepared and gave us the extra effort needed. We have time to rest and get ready to go on Monday. But to be honest, I would like to see these girls play again tomorrow."
LADY FLAMES 63
CARROLL (MONT.) 49
Lee used a late second half run to advance past Carroll College (Mont.), 63-49, in Friday morning's second round game of the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship.
The two clubs exchanged blows in the first half with Lee holding a slim 24-23 advantage at the intermission. The Lady Flames extended the lead to eight early in the second half before the Saints pulled back to even at 36-36 with 12:33 remaining.
"We talked at half time and thought we played really hard in the first half and withstood a little run by them and just knew we hadn't had our run yet. " Coach Marty Rowe explained. "We made a run in the second half and they came back at us but we were able to get that last push with about eight minutes to go."
Trailing 36-39 with just over 11 minutes remaining in the contest, the Lady Flames used a 27-10 run to pull away from the Saints and advance to the quarterfinal round of the National Tournament for the third time in school history. Lee used the 3-point shot and canned key free throws down the stretch to help expand the lead and secure the win.
"We're second in the country in 3-pointers made so we're going to shoot it a lot. That's how we're built and we had our legs back underneath us in the second half and were able to hit a few shots,” said Rowe. "I'm really happy and proud for our girls. It's a big win for our program. We just need to stay focused and enjoy what we're doing."
All-American Hollie German led the second half charge and finished with 21 points in the contest on 6-of-13 shooting from the field. The junior also hit 7-of-8 from the charity stripe, many of which came down the stretch when Carroll was forced to foul to try and stretch the game out. Jenna Adams added 12 points and five rebounds for the Lady Flames. Adams was a perfect 7-of-7 from the foul line, hitting four freebies in the final minute to seal the victory.
"We had the ball in the right people's hands at the end. Jenna (Adams) and Hollie (German) getting fouled, those our are two best free throw shooters." noted Rowe.
Lee's shut down defender, Rachel Lockhart, made her presence felt on the offensive end of the court with two big three's in the second half and finished with six points and six rebounds. Julia Zimmerman would also hit a pair of three's and finished with seven points in the game. Myriah Illes provided some punch in the post, tallying six markers to go along with six boards.
Lee shot 39.13 percent (18-of-46) from the field and 38.10 percent (8-of-21) from behind the arc. Coach Rowe's club would also convert 19-of-22 from the foul line, good for 86.36 percent. The Saints were 19-of-52 from the field (36.54 percent) but struggled, converting just 2-of-13, from 3-point distance. After pulling down 52 rebounds in Wednesday's first round game, Rowe's squad again attacked the glass, outrebounding the Saints 36-27.
Torrie Cahill lead the Saints in scoring with 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Bailey Snelling chipped in 15 points, and Jordan Bagley had seven markers and grabbed six rebounds for the Montana based club.