SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- California (Pa.) claimed the program's second national championship with an 86-69 victory against California Baptist. In Cal (Pa.)’s semifinal victory against Emporia State, it was a defensive gem that sent the Vulcan’s to the national title game. But on Friday, it was Cal (Pa.)’s offensive assault that put up the second-most points scored all season to catapult it to the national title.
Miki Glenn scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Kaitlynn Fratz was named the Elite Eight Most Outstanding Player.
The Vulcans found their footing, however, and locked in on defense midway though the first half to slow the high-scoring Lancers. But the scoring slump didn’t last long for Cal (Pa.), as the Vulcans caught fire and essentially put the game out of reach by halftime.
“I’m really, really happy for these kids. They’ve put work in for seven months now, day-in and day-out. I don’t know a team that deserves it more,” said Cal (Pa.) head coach Jess Strom said. “They set a goal early, and they stayed with it through every single thing that went on this year. I think it’s awesome that they get to go out on top."
Cal (Pa.) shot 54 percent from the field in the first half to take a 48-28 lead into the break. Late in the first half, the Vulcans were shooting a blistering 61 percent from the field while enjoying a 42-25 lead with just under four minutes to play. They finished the night shooting a season-high 50 percent from the floor.
CBU jumped out to an 11-2 lead, and Cal (Pa.) looked to be on their heels after the quick start. But the Vulcans responded, in a big way. Cal (Pa.) went on a 21-0 run after the early CBU lead, and the Vulcans were never really challenged the rest of the night.
“I think they were maybe a little nervous to start the game,” CBU coach Jarrod Olson said. “We came out pretty fast and we made a run. Then they made a run, and we didn’t do a very good job of responding to it. I think some of our inexperience really showed. We tried some different things, but we just couldn’t quite find the combination to stop it.”
The Vulcans had to deal with Darsha Burnside, a 6-foot-6 center who had been having an impressive tournament by averaging 22.0 points and 17.0 rebounds per game in CBU’s wins in the Elite Eight and semifinals.
She ended up with solid numbers, registering her 25th double-double with 27 points and 12 rebounds, but it took her some time to get going. When she finally did score with just more than 10 minutes to play in the first half, Cal (Pa.) had already opened a 26-14 lead.
“We’re smaller. Most teams have a true center, and we really don’t,” Strom said. “It’s the same thing for us all year. We want to pressure the guards because if they get inside, 9 times out of 10 they’re going to score and go to the line. We try and front like crazy, pressure the guards and get good help side.”
Burnside also had five blocks in each of CBU’s two previous games, but the offense was clicking so well for Cal (Pa.) in the first half that even when Burnside did show her defensive presence, it still went Cal (Pa.)’s way.
With two minutes, 45 seconds to play in the opening half, Burnside swatted a Seairra Barrett layup attempt. After a short scramble, Barrett regained possession and scored, making it 44-25.
CBU did make things interesting in the second half when they cut the 20-point halftime deficit down to eight with 12:35 to play when Burnside scored to make it 57-49. Strom used a timeout after the CBU surge, and Cal (Pa.) scored six quick points out of the timeout, forcing three CBU turnovers.
With three minutes to play and down 12, CBU put a full court press on Cal (Pa.), but the Vulcans handled the defensive challenge with ease, outscoring CBU 10-3 down the stretch.
The Vulcans last won a national title in 2004 against Drury, exactly 11 years to the day.