FARGO, N.D.--North Dakota State senior Darci Steere, playing in her fourth NCAA championship final, poured in 32 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead the Bison past Cal State-San Bernardino 89-56 for the Division II women's basketball title.
“Not very many people get the opportunity to play in a championship game and even fewer people get the opportunity to play in four,” said Steere.
“There is no greater feeling in the world than going out your senior year as the national champions.”
The victory was even more special as it came in the Bison Sports Arena before 6,806 appreciative fans. When the Bison last hosted the Division II championship in 1992 they were defeated by Delta State 65-63.
As was the case throughout the championship, stifling defense was the key for the Bison. NDSU limited the Coyotes to 25 percent shooting on the night, including a frigid 21 percent (7-of-33) in the decisive second half.
Trailing 18-13 midway in the first half, Jen Rademacher and Rhonda Birch sparked a 17-3 run which helped the Bison take a 39-28 halftime lead.
Cal State-San Bernardino looked to be in a position to challenge in the second half, but the Bison picked up their intensity after the intermission.
“Our team is one that kind of feels teams out,” said NDSU head coach Amy Ruley. “And in those cases usually the second half is our better half.”
The championship game turned out to be one of those cases. The Bison began the second half with a 20-10 run that extended the lead to 59-38 with 12:46 left. Steere, the championship's most outstanding player, tallied 13 of NDSU's 20 points during that stretch.
The Coyotes' shooting woes were never more evident than midway in the second half when they went 5:35 without a basket.
Steere, who hit 11-of-18 from the field and 10-of-13 from the foul line, was joined on the all-tourney team by teammates Rademacher and Kasey Morlock, and Kim Young and Chery'll Few from Cal State-San Bernardino.
Few led the Coyotes with 25 points.