INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – (Box Score) A long 3-pointer by Shamon Pearson with 2.9 seconds remaining helped No. 2 Bethel (Tenn.) escape a furious rally by No. 7 William Woods (Mo.), 62-61, after blowing a 22-point second half lead. The win slips the Lady Wildcats into the second round of the 2015 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City.
With the win, the Lady Wildcats (31-3) punched their ticket to a Friday night contest with the winner of No. 3 Concordia (Calif.) and No. 6 Carroll (Mont.) up next.
Tayla Foster’s 18 first half points helped the Lady Wildcats to a 16-point halftime lead of 38-22.
The Lady Wildcats, particularly Foster, were unstoppable in the first 20 minutes. The senior forward led all scorers with 18 first-half points. Foster had seven rebounds and was 6-for-19 from the floor, including launching 13 three-pointers, making three.
At the end of the first session, William Woods had 22 points, outscoring Foster by only four.
Foster was the focal-point of the Bethel attack, as almost every offensive set went through the star. As a team, the Lady Wildcats put up 45 shots in the first half, with someone other than Foster accounting for eight made buckets (14-of-45)
The tide turned mid-way through the second half.
After multiple turnovers and missed shots, followed up by multiple 3-point makes by the Owls, the seven seed kept chipping away at the deficit.
Before you knew it, the game was tied at the 3:52 mark at 53 apiece. Forty-nine seconds later, Marissa Webb gave William Woods its first lead of the game at 56-55 after the hoop and the harm. The Owls’ lead stretched to as big as three with 2:24 left in regulation. Both teams went back-and-forth trading the lead when the Owls’ Kelsey Scherder drained a deep three-pointer to get her team back ahead, 61-59, with 24 seconds on the clock.
On the next Lady Wildcats possession, Jackliann Street rebounded a wayward shot and kicked it out Pearson who was locked and ready in the corner – and she delivered.
Bethel only shot nine-of-30 in the second half, including making only one three-point basket in nine tries. Foster led all shot-takers with 26 points and nine rebounds, but had to watch the rest of the game after fouling out late in the game. Kenyatta Drake joined her in double-figures with 13.
Williams Woods closes the book on the season with a 23-9 record. Blake French led all Owls with 18 points on the night. French was the only William Woods player to hit the double-digit mark.
The first 30 games of the 2015 NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship is available live on the NAIA Network. For packages and pricing visit www.NAIANetwork.com.