SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Cal Baptist entered the 2015 NCAA tournament unranked, but they’ve made quite a statement on their march to the national championship game. It was another impressive victory for the Lancers (29-6) in the semifinals Wednesday, ending the nation’s longest winning streak at 33 games by overwhelming Limestone 85-67.
In CBU’s five tournament wins, they’ve defeated opponents by an average of 17 points per game. The semifinal game was no different as the Lancers built their second half lead to as many as 25 and CBU cruised down the stretch to reach the title game.“We’ve been the underdog in every game we’ve played so far, so we’re just going in and playing the best game we can play,” CBU coach Jarrod Olson said. “It just so happens that we’ve been able to win some games with some larger margins, and I’m definitely happy about that.”
This one was never close after the Lancers opened things up midway through the first half. CBU went on a 23-11 run to finish out the half and blow open a three-point game with just under 12 minutes to play. The Lancers led 42-27 at the break and were never challenged in the second half.
“To score 85 on them, you know you have to be playing pretty well,” Olson said. “I know we have a really good team. I know we can beat anybody, but we’ve also shown that we can lose to anybody, too. But I’m certainly not surprised that we’ve played well.”
CBU’s first-half run all started on a Darsha Burnside layup, who continues to be a difference-maker for the Lancers during the postseason. She finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds, and her inside presence was too much for Limestone to counter.
Burnside has been on a terror the last two games leading up to Friday’s title match, averaging 22.0 points and 17.0 rebounds since arriving in Sioux Falls for the Elite Eight.
Courtney Nelson led the Lancers in scoring with 20 points against Limestone (34-2), and CBU had four starters score in double figures.
“This is definitely the most complete we’ve played all year,” Olson said. “We’ve had some stretches this season where we’ve certain parts of the game well. But there’s always been something not clicking. We’re a pretty balanced team and I feel like we’ve done a nice job of keeping that balance and at the same time having some people step up and play just a notch above. It seems like it’s someone different every time.”
Even when it looked like Limestone might make a little run to close the gap in the second half, Burnside had an answer. She had a turnover and committed an offensive foul on back-to-back trips with just under 11 minutes to play, but she followed it up with a massive block on Celestra Warren, which resulted in a transition layup for Cassidy Mihalko, increasing the lead back to 18.
It was Burnside’s sixth game of the season registering 15 points, ten rebounds and five blocks. Her interior defense made it tough on Limestone all night, which had their fourth-lowest shooting performance of the season at 34%. CBU improves to 20-0 on the season when holding opponents below 35 percent from the field.
“We haven’t played that many close games this year,” Olson said. “I guess you’re surprised when you win by that many against good teams. But we’ve played well, and I think the margin has been a little misleading, too. There have been some closer games that get away at the end.”
Ayshia McNeil led the Saints with 17 points and five rebounds. Limestone’s leading scorer, Jasmine Kearse, finished the night with 13 points.