National Title Hopes Fall Three Points Short for Palm Beach Atlantic in Women's Hoops
March 14, 2009
Written By: Michael Brown, Palm Beach Atlantic University SID
WINONA LAKE, Ind.- In yet another epic battle at the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Tournament on Saturday, the Palm Beach Atlantic University women’s basketball team came within three points of the team’s first-ever NCCAA National Championship. That goal however must wait until next year perhaps as PBA was defeated 50-48 by Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
Facing off against a higher seed for the third straight day of the tournament in facing the #2-seeded Cougars (27-9), the #5-seeded Sailfish were so very close to closing out what has been an unpredictable, roller-coaster of a season.
Unlike their first two contests of the tournament in which the Sailfish trailed at halftime, the Fish jumped out to an early lead in fact the Blue and White were on fire as they led 11-0 to start the game. The lead would shrink to five points as Rachel Fiely drilled her first three of the game with 8:09 remaining in the first-half as the Cougars trailed 15-10.
Not to be outdone, the Sailfish pushed their lead back to double-figures a few minutes later as Chanell Byrd sank an up-and-under layup on a nice pass from Kristine Webb to give PBA the 22-12 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first period of play.
Continuing the game of scoring runs by both squads, the Cougars fired back late in the half as back-to-back three-pointers from Jessica Lynn and Bethany Hughes got MVNU within three points at 22-19 with under two minutes left in the half.
The two teams would trade baskets over the final two minutes as the Sailfish went into the lockeroom at halftime with a 27-21 advantage.
The second-half featured some more offensive spurts coupled with solid defensive play by both teams. After a back-to-back baskets to start the half by MVNU, it appeared as if the Sailfish received their second wind as they went on a 8-0 run to extend their lead back to ten points at 35-25 with 13:44 left in regulation.
That solid run by the Fish would unfortunately be matched by an 11-0 run by the Cougars as forward Amanda Hines began to heat up while Hughes knocked down a jumper at the 7:21 mark to take a brief 36-35 lead. The Fish would then answer on a three-point play from Lynsey Poole to take the lead back.
Mount Vernon Nazarene would stay close however and even go back ahead briefly before PBA tied the game at 42-42 with 3:28 remaining when Kristine Webb made the first of two free-throws.
A pair of Himes free-throws gave the lead back to MVNU while Byrd nailed a jumper on the other end to once again tie the score, this time at 44 with 2:10 remaining.
Alexis Harkins and Himes gave the Cougars a three-point lead as Harkins hit one of two free-throws while Himes connected on a play down low to go up 47-44 with 1:58 left.
After a PBA timeout, head coach Robin Potera-Haskins inserted freshman Jordan Kong who immediately drilled a long-range three that banked in from the top of the key to miraculously tie the game at 47-47 with only 58 ticks left.
From there it would be Himes again for MVNU as she collected a put-back that pushed the advantage to 49-47. Poole would be fouled on the other end for Palm Beach Atlantic but was unable to connect on both free-throws as the lead was then 49-48 in favor of the Cougars.
After sending Himes back to the line one more time, the Sailfish had their shot at the game-winner. Poole drove the length of the court, much as she did the night before in defeating Emmanuel College on a last second shot, this time dishing to the corner to find an open Fields. Despite her best effort, Field’s long-range attempt rimmed out and left the Sailfish just short of a game-winner.
Himes led all scorers on the night as she earned the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award as the sophomore poured in at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of the three games she played. Tonight Himes produced 22 of MVNU’s 50 points including 18 points in the second-half. She also managed to pull down 14 rebounds while playing 31 minutes. No other MVNU player scored more than eight points.
The Sailfish were led by 16 points from Poole who played the entirety of the tournament on an injured leg. A freshman point guard out of Atlanta, Georgia, Poole was 4-of-12 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. Joining Poole in double-figures was Chanel Byrd who posted a double-double in her final game of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman Selethia Jackson pulled down 10 rebounds while chipping in four points. Fields came off the bench for 11 points as she scored in double-figures in all three games of the tournament.
After an incredible run to the NCCAA National Tournament Championship game, the 2008-2009 version of the Palm Beach Atlantic University women’s basketball team has a lot to be proud of. After only four combined wins over the previous two seasons combined, the Sailfish erupted for 14 wins this season while earning the program’s first-ever NCCAA South Region Championship.
TOURNAMENT NOTES: Lynsey Poole and Hayley Fields were named to the NCCAA All-Tournament Team… Senior Melissa Perez was named a NCCAA All-American Honorable Mention… More to follow on these prestigious individual awards.