Lee University advances to its first-ever national championship final with a 43-41 win against Cumberland University Monday night at the 2013 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship at the Frankfort Convention Center. The Lady Flames, who extends their current win streak to 17 games, will face the winner of Westmont (Calif.)/Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) at 6:35 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.
The contest is the second lowest scoring game in championship history, trailing only Westmont and Westminster’s 39-36 game in the quarterfinals, and the lowest scoring semifinal contest. The previous semifinal record was set by Union (Tenn.) and Shawnee State (Ohio), 58-40, in 2011.
With the game tied 41-41, Lee’s Hollie German found herself at the free throw line with 3.7 seconds remaining. The junior guard, who entered the contest averaging a team-best 20.3 points per game, was put on the line after being fouled driving to the basket. German connected on both attempts to give the Lady Flames a 43-41 lead.
Following a Lee timeout, Cumberland guard Briannica Tye took the inbounds pass and drove the length of the court before pulling up at the top of the 3-point arc. Tye’s attempt missed the mark, bouncing off the back of the rim and into the hands of a Lee defender as the buzzer sounded.
Both teams struggled offensively in the second period, scoring a combined 38 points, including 17 points from Lee on only three field goals. The Lady Flames made up for the shooting woes by converting 78.6 percent (11-of-14) of their free throw attempts, including a 5-for-6 effort over the course of the game’s final three minutes.
The second half saw seven ties, including four in the final seven minutes, but only one lead change. No more than two points separated the two sides, except for on one occasion when Jenna Adams converted a pair of free throws to make it 40-37 with 3:30 left in the period.
Cumberland claimed its lone lead of the second half, and its first since seven minutes left in the first half, at the 1:57 mark, 41-40 when Simone Ryan converted an old-fashioned 3-point play. However, the lead was short lived, as German hit the second of two free throws to tie the game before winning the contest at the foul line more than a minute later.
Cumberland jumped out to a 9-2 lead to open the game. The Bulldogs physical defense forced Lee into only 1-for-4 shooting, four turnovers and one offensive foul during the run, which spanned the first six minutes of the period. The Lady Flames chipped away at the deficit before a 10-0 run, sparked by a deep Adams 3-pointer that banked off the backboard and into the basket. Adams scored eight of Lee’s 10 points during the stretch with German tallying the other two.
The Lady Flames held Cumberland without a field goal over the final 2:04 of the first half to own a 26-20 lead, and the game’s momentum, going into the break.
Adams finished the game leading all scorers with 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting and a 4-for-4 performance at the free throw line. She also grabbed 12 rebounds for her 16th double-double of the season and second at the national championship. Joining Adams in double figures was German with 13 points.
Two of the NAIA’s top defenses held true to form, as Cumberland held Lee to 26.5 percent (13-of-49), including a 13.6 percent effort in the second half. The Lady Flames returned the favor, holding the Bulldogs to 28.8 percent (15-of-52)
while the Lady .The Lady Flames shot only 13.6 percent (3-of-22) in the second half.
The Bulldogs were led in scoring by London Elie and Tye with nine points each. Cumberland turned the ball over a championship-high 16 times.
Cumberland, who was making its second-ever appearance in the national championship semifinals, ends its season with a program record single-season record of 33-3.