Posted: Mar 6, 2013 11:08 AM
Updated: Mar 6, 2013 11:22 AM
OLATHE, KS - Top-seed MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) used a strong first half to pull out a 77-71 win over No. 3-seed Central Methodist in the 2013 Heart of America Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament championship game in Bell Family Arena.
The Pioneers (30-2) improve their win streak to 20 games, while the Eagles (25-7) see their four-game win streak snapped and will have to wait until Wednesday at 4 p.m. CT to see if an at-large berth to the 33rd Annual Division I Women's Basketball National Championship Presented by Kentuckytourism.com is in order. MidAmerica Nazarene already secured an automatic bid to the big dance by winning the HAAC's regular-season title. No. 12 Benedictine (Ken.) takes the HAAC's second automatic berth in the national playoffs by finishing second in the league in the regular season.
MidAmerica Nazarene wins its second straight HAAC Tournament. The Pioneers also won the 2011-12 and 2012-13 conference regular-season championships.
The Green and Black fall to 1-2 all-time in the HAAC Tournament championship game and 0-2 on the road.
Kyra Williams opened with a three in the first 1:30 for Central Methodist, while Kiley Herold scored the first four points for MidAmerica Nazarene. The Pioneers jumped out to a 14-7 lead through the first five minutes.
The Eagles responded with a 7-0 run in the span of three minutes, as Raylyn Nuss canned her first three at the 13:35 mark before giving the Green and Black their first lead, 17-16, one minute later off a jumper in transition.
Megan Balcom hit a three with nine minutes left to make the score 23-18 in favor of the Pioneers. Central Methodist's Towanda Sutton hit a jumper at the eight minute mark to cut the deficit to 26-22. She had nine of the Eagles' first 22 points, but Megan Balcom hit a jumper to stretch her team's lead to nine, 31-22, with 6:12 remaining in the half.
A Herold running layup stretched the Pioneers' advantage to 35-22. Herold and Megan Balcom were each 4-of-7 from the floor through the first 16 minutes of the game. Meanwhile, Central Methodist went a six minute stretch without scoring before Williams sank two free throws at the three minute mark. Williams sank a jumper in the paint as time expired, but the Eagles trailed 45-28 at the break.
The Pioneers shot 48.8 percent (20-of-41) in the first 20 minutes. The Green and Black were only 35.5 percent (11-of-31) from the field.
Reigning HAAC Player of the Week Britney Joseph and Sammie Gathercole each scored four points to open the second half, and the Eagles were able to trim the deficit to 47-36 following a Gathercole jumper at the 18:14 mark.
The Green and Black mounted a rally in the half beginning at the 13:46 mark. Down 53-40, a Sutton jumper triggered an 11-2 spurt. Gathercole brought the Eagles within six at 53-47 following a trey on the fastbreak, and Taylor Cornelison found the bottom of the net midway through the period to cut the difference to as little as 55-51. However, Megan Balcom came back down the court and made a three to stretch the margin back to seven and halt Central Methodist's momentum.
Megan Balcom led all scorers with 17. Kelsey Balcom and Kendra Flemming had 13 apiece. Daria Sprew tallied 11.
Herold finished with a double-double, 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Sutton finished Tuesday's game 7-of-12 from the floor and totaled 15 points. Joseph and Williams pumped in 13 and 12, respectively. Gathercole had nine, while Jasmine Poteete added seven.
Joseph also came up with seven rebounds, two blocks and a game-high four steals.
The Pioneers shot 45.7 percent (32-of-70) overall with 20 assists on 32 made buckets. The Eagles were 41.9 percent (26-of-62) from the floor, including 48.4 percent (15-of-31) in the final 20 minutes.