Oklahoma City University will play for the NAIA Division I women's basketball championship after getting past John Brown (Ark.) 67-65 in the semifinals Monday at the Frankfort Convention Center.
Sierra Shipley's layup attempt bounded strong off the backboard, and Yvonte Neal rebounded for OCU as time expired. The fifth-ranked Stars (26-4) advanced to the national title contest against Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.).
OCU reached the national championship game for the 10th time. OCU captured national crowns in 1988, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2012 while finishing national runner-up 2003, 2004 and 2005. OCU hosts a championship watch party at the student lounge of the Tom & Brenda McDaniel University Center on campus Tuesday.
John Brown scored the game's final six points. John Brown completed a comeback from an 18-point deficit in its 65-63 quarterfinal win over Loyola (La.) on Saturday. OCU's last three wins have come by three points, three points and now, two points.
"That's something with John Brown," OCU coach Latricia Trammell said. "You can't take them for granted. I called several timeouts in the second half just to remind our ladies that this was not over and that they were a good comeback team, which obviously you saw. I'm proud of our girls' effort. They deserve it, and we're looking forward to tomorrow's championship game."
Autumn Huffman buried a long jumper to give OCU a 67-59 advantage with 4:24 remaining. Then Kortni Barenburg scored on back-to-back buckets, the second of which cut the Stars' lead down to 67-63 with 3:34 left. Shipley connected on two free throws to make it 67-65 at the 2:22 mark.
In the final 2:05, Oklahoma City went 0-for-3 from the field and missed a foul shot, while John Brown missed two shots from the floor and turned the ball over once. Kayla MacKenzie knocked the ball away, and Neal grabbed the theft with 57 seconds to go. Neal missed a shot that the Golden Eagles' Abbie Warren rebounded with 31 seconds left.
John Brown called timeout with 21 seconds left. Shipley drove to the basket, but failed to add to her game-high 23 points on the final shot attempt.
"I thought they'd go inside, and they ended up giving it back to Shipley, which I knew would happen to either drive or look for that 3. She had an open look, but that doesn't define who she is. She's a great basketball player, and we just got lucky," Trammell said.
The Stars twice built a 14-point lead. MacKenzie fed Huffman underneath the basket for a layup to give OCU a 57-43 advantage with 12:26 left, then Neal drove the lane for a lay-in and a 59-45 Stars lead with 10:31 showing.
MacKenzie tallied seven of OCU's points during a 9-0 run to start the second half. MacKenzie's 3 put the Stars in front 47-37 at the 17:04 mark.
Morgan Ankrom's trey started John Brown on a 7-0 run that built a 26-17 advantage with 9:48 left in the first half.
OCU climbed out of that hole. Ouleymatou Coulibaly banked in a shot that capped a 7-0 Stars splurge that put her team up 36-35 at 1:48 before halftime.
The Stars built a 43-23 rebounding advantage, scoring 22 second-chance points while grabbing 20 offensive rebounds. OCU held John Brown to 6-of-20 shooting from beyond the 3-point line. The 16th-ranked Golden Eagles entered the game leading the NAIA in 3-pointers made and finished with 337 total for a 9.36 per-game average.
Huffman, a senior from Midwest City, led four Stars in double-figure scoring. Huffman posted 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor, while MacKenzie, a senior from Peoria, Ariz., piled up 13 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals for OCU.
Coulibaly, a junior from Bamako, Mali, West Africa, supplied the Stars her team-high ninth double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Neal, a junior from Spring Valley, Calif., had 12 points, six rebounds and four steals.
John Brown completed its season 28-8 with a program-record victory total and its first trip to the Fab Four. Barenburg added 17 points, while Lauren Rogers contributed 12 points.