KFBB to KC: UGF Lady Argos and Carroll Saints Advance to NAIA To - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

KFBB to KC: UGF Lady Argos and Carroll Saints Advance to NAIA Tourney Elite 8, Highlights and Results from Friday 3/18

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With two minutes left, a one-point lead and the ball in senior All-American Erin Legel’s hands, head coach Bill Himmelberg knew his Lady Argos were going to their second straight Elite 8. Legel backed up her coach’s intuition hitting 8 of 8 free throws in the final two minutes to give (20) University of Great Falls a 60-50 Sweet 16 victory over the third ranked team in the nation in the 2016 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championships.

“As soon as the game got tied towards the end I knew we were going to get it,” Himmelberg said. “These are the kind of games we’ve played in all year long.”

Outside of those final two minutes, the outcome was much less confident and positive for the Lady Argos. UGf held a lead over (3) Lyon College (Ark.) for just four and half minutes in the game and trailed by as many as 11. The Scot’s top ranked defense stifled the Lady Argos in the first half, forcing eight turnovers and holding UGF to just nine made field goals and one made 3-pointer.

At the half, UGF trailed 32-23 and no player on the team had more than five points. That quickly changed as junior Nneka Nnadi started the second half with a 3-pointer and quickly made a second. Not only was Nnadi’s early second half effort a general boost for the Argonaut offense, it knocked the team’s second leading scorer out a three quarter long funk during which she made 3 of 21 shot attempts.

As tough as the Lyon defense was in the first half, UGF center Whitney George the rest of the Lady Argo defense were even better in the third quarter. They held the Scots to eight points in period and almost matched the task in the fourth, holding their opponent to ten.

They then got going on offense, scoring 26 points in the final ten minutes.

“In the second half we took care of the ball a lot better and moved the ball from side to side. We attacked the rim and put ourselves in a good situation to get some open looks,” Himmelberg said. “The girls executed what we talked about at half time perfectly and then we got defensive stops and rebounds and that was the key for us.”

At the 8:20 mark, junior Morgan Grier hit her second 3-pointer of the game to pull UGF within five. Legel and sophomore Stephanie McDonagh followed with two layups to tie the game at 49 with six minutes remaining. The Lady Argos allowed just two more points in the entire game and the rest was a matter hitting free throws and getting the ball into Legel’s hands.

Legel, Nnadi, and McDonagh combined to hit 13 of 14 free throws down the stretch extending their lead with each make. Legel hit eight of those and stayed turnover free while being guarded by Jamie Jackson, the second ranked player in the NAIA in steals

“I think everybody can see that she’s a special player,” Himmelberg said of Legel. “She’s going to have it late in games and she can make big shots. She’ll either make the shot or make the right pass. She’s probably one of the best if not the best player in the country with the ball in her hands at the end of the game.”

Legel finished with a game leading 17 points after a 28-point performance the previous day. She also fiished with 3 assists and just 3 turnovers while being guarded by Jackson. Nnadi recovered from her early struggles to finish with 16 points, including 12 in the second half, 8 rebounds and 2 assists. McDonagh and George each finished with 9 points. George, the fourth best blocker in the NAIA, also added 6 rebounds and 3 blocks, all of which came at crucial moments in the second half.

UGF knocked off a 1-seed for the first time in school history and match the history making 2015 squad in a number of ways. The 2016 version of the Lady Argos now has the same record (24-10) as the 2015 team and has reached the Elite 8 for the second consecutive year.

“It just shows all the hard work we put in and where we’ve come from. Its special to get here and its more than just one person. It’s the school, its everything we’re trying to accomplish and it’s a special group of girls,” Himmelberg said of making a second Elite 8. “This is also for all of the girls who were here before us that put in the time and built the program to what it is today.”

The Lady Argos move on in the upset riddled Liston Bracket to face 6-seed Pikesville (Ky.) in the Elite 8. They will play on Saturday, March 19 at 5 p.m. MST. 

University of Great Falls Sports Information

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