UGF and MSU-Northern Ousted in Quarterfinals of NAIA National Ch - News, Sports and Weather

UGF and MSU-Northern Ousted in Quarterfinals of NAIA National Championships

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – No one expected them to be here.

But that was of small consolation afterward as the seventh-seeded University of Great Falls women's basketball team saw its Cinderella run in the NAIA National Tournament come to an end Saturday 88-52 at the hand of No. 1-seed Oklahoma City University in the Elite Eight here at the Independence Events Center.

“It was a magical season and a dream season for us,” UGF head coach Bill Himmelberg said. “It didn't end the way we wanted. It was a tough game. But at the end you're either going to be crying because you won the whole thing or because you lost out.”

The No. 25 Lady Argonauts (24-10) became the darling of the tournament by topping second-seeded Loyola (La.) and third-seeded Langston (Okla.) to reach the quarterfinals in their first-ever trip to the tournament. UGF was the only seed lower than No. 4 to reach the final eight.

Yet defending national champion and second-ranked OCU (28-2) proved too strong, too fast and too accurate Saturday afternoon as the Stars advanced one step closer to defending the title they won a season ago.

OCU shot 51 percent from the field – including 40 percent from the perimeter – and out-rebounded UGF 44-36. The Stars also forced 19 Lady Argos turnovers which led to 22 points.

“I thought we came out and defended really well right away, but at one point they made 12 baskets in a row,” Himmelberg said. “I thought we were executing our defensive game plan, but they were tough. They're really athletic and really strong.”

The defeat marked the end of the careers of four UGF seniors – Lindsey Abramson, Mary Wilmore, Mackenzie Owens and Ashley Crippen – who were an integral part of turning around a program that finished 8-19 during their freshman season in 2011-12.

“I couldn't be more proud of the senior group we have,” Himmelberg said. “They took our program from nothing, put us on the map and took us to the Elite Eight.”

Abramson, the record-setting center from Arizona, finished with seven points and 11 rebounds in her final contest, while Wilmore scored six to go along with four rebounds.

Owens had two points and a block as she earned the start in the final two games of the national tourney with All-Conference guard Darah Huertas-Vining sidelined by an injury sustained in Wednesday's opening-round victory.

“This was a great opportunity that I was faced with, and I had some great teammates going through it,” Abramson said. "We started off really bad and didn't win very many games. We just kept pushing, and the last four years it shows how much hard work we put in.”

UGF led 16-13 with six minutes to play in the first half. But OCU closed the first stanza on a 24-4 run – thanks in part to some timely 3-point shooting – and led 37-20 at the break.

The second half was more of the same as OCU methodically extended its lead which reached as many as 38 points.

“I was a little disappointed with how we executed on the offensive end,” Himmelberg said. “I didn't think we accomplished what we wanted on the offensive end in the first half. You dig yourself a little bit of a hole and then it got away from us a little bit.”

Erin Legel led UGF with 15 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists. Nneka Nnadi added a dozen points and six rebounds, while Stephanie McDonagh also scored seven points.

Yvonte Neal and Rateska Brown each scored 22 points to pace OCU while Ouleymatou Coulibaly added 16. Neal also collected a team-high 11 boards.


The Skylights season came up short of reaching the Final Four after losing to Freed-Hardeman in the quarterfinals on Saturday, 63-50.

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