By Murray Evans
WINONA LAKE, Ind. (March 14, 2013) – Oklahoma Christian coach Stephanie Findley looked at the stat sheet after Thursday night’s game against California Baptist and slowly shook her head while succinctly summarizing what had happened.
“They were killing us from the 3-point line,” Findley said softly. “You have to get out and cover them and we didn’t do that.”
As a result, the Lady Eagles finally found a hole out of which they couldn’t dig. Down 24 points early in the second half, they staged a furious rally but came up short, falling 98-86 in the National Christian College Athletic Association Championship semifinals at the Orthopaedic Capital Center.
OC (20-12), which was making its first national semifinal appearance, had dreamed of playing archrival Southern Nazarene for the championship on Saturday. Instead, the Lady Eagles will face longtime NAIA power Union (Tenn.) in the third-place game.
The loss, which ended the Lady Eagles’ six-game winning streak, overshadowed a tremendous outing by Katy O’Steen. OC’s senior center went 12-of-17 from the field and poured in a career-high 31 points, 25 of those coming after halftime and fueling her team’s rally. She also grabbed eight rebounds.
O’Steen, who increased her career point total to 1,419, moved from 14th into a tie for 11th on OC’s all-time list and needs 15 points on Saturday to surpass Lisa Landrum (1986-1989) for 10th place.
That really didn’t matter much, though, outside a somber OC locker room. Findley said her team let the game get away during the first half, as California Baptist (25-5) went 8-of-13 from 3-point range (61.5 percent). The Lancers finished the game 13-of-23 from behind the arc (56.5 percent).
Five different Lancers – Simone Holmes, Myriah Hicks, Megan Workman, Amy Browne and Lesley Vodicksa – hit at least one 3-pointer. Hicks made all three of her attempts.
That, combined with OC’s 20 turnovers, proved too much to overcome.
“I was hoping they’d cool off,” Findley said. “We made a couple of runs at them, but we had dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half. What can you do? They shot 61 percent (from 3-point range) in the first half. When they did miss … we gave them too many offensive rebounds.”
OC led only once, after Logan McKee opened the game with a 3-pointer. Three of California Baptist’s first four field goals were 3-pointers as the Lancers quickly built a sizable lead. OC trailed 45-27 at halftime, but had hope considering they’d rallied from double-digit halftime deficits in two recent big wins, over Texas-Permian Basin and Cedarville (Ohio).
But the Lancers’ lead grew. An 8-0 run, fueled by treys from Holmes and Workman, put California Baptist up 57-33 with 16:01 left.
Findley had the Lady Eagles use full-court pressure much of the second half and it met with some success, but when the Lancers did make it into the frontcourt, they usually scored. California Baptist shot 53.6 percent from the field after halftime and 52.8 percent for the game.
OC kept chipping away at the lead and came as close as 10, the last time at 89-79 after a lay-in by Roz Hamilton with 1:29 left. The Lancers went 10-of-14 at the free-throw line in the final 2:45, though, allowing them to keep their lead at double digits.
“We’ve come back all year and fought,” Findley said. “We always play hard and fight hard. But we had little breakdowns. We’d make a run, then give up a wide-open three. That just kind of breaks your spirit a little bit. I’m pleased we beat them the second half (59-53) but you can’t get that far behind.”
Holmes led California Baptist with 25 points, while Hicks had 19 and Jasmine Beverly had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Browne scored 12 points.
Krista Stevens and Hamilton each scored 13 points for the Lady Eagles, with Daisha Gonzaque adding 10.