Lubbock Christian and Drury battled through every minute of the 40 they played in the DII NCAA women's Elite Eight.
It started in the first quarter, with Maddi Chitsey establishing her presence inside for the Lady Chaparrals as Daejah Bernard did the same on the perimeter for the Panthers. It continued into the third, with Allie Schulte knocking down 3s for Lubbock Christian and Hailey Diestelkamp trying to will Drury’s undefeated season forward. And it drove the action in the fourth, the impending final never acting as a deterrent.
HOW WE GOT HERE: Re-live the moments that built up to the national championship game
Lubbock Christian upset Drury to advance to the Division II women’s basketball national championship game. It clinched a spot alongside Southwestern Oklahoma State with a 69-60 win. But No. 1 seed Drury made sure the Lady Chaps were never able to feel comfortable. Lubbock Christian nearly won by double digits and led by as many as 15 in the third quarter. But the Lady Chaps didn’t coast to the final buzzer. Here’s how they made it out of the semifinals and into the title game:
🏀WBB | FINAL— LCU Chaparrals (@LCUCHAPS) March 28, 2019
🔵LCU (31-5) heads to the NCAA Div. II National Championship Game Friday at 6 PM CT in Columbus#D2Hoops #EliteEight Tournament
🏀 #LCUvsDU pic.twitter.com/P9WebcbXdU
Lubbock Christian didn’t come close to chasing a 100-point game like it did in a 99-point effort against North Georgia in the Elite Eight, when it shot 62.3 percent from the field and 52 percent on 3s, but its offense did keep finding success.
The Chaps shot 52.4 percent from the field against the Panthers. They hit 23 of 26 free throws. And four different players finished with at least 11 points.
Lubbock Christian could already boast three players who average more than 10 points per game and a team that shoots nearly 49 percent from the field, and it just kept clicking. No wonder the Chaps weathered each Panthers run.
“We knew it was going to be a fast-paced game and we knew that they kind of relied on that press,” Schulte said. “So, I think once we kind of got the feel of it — how they played, because we haven’t really been used to that — we could settle down.”
Drury entered this matchup after a 91-point performance against Nova Southeastern that saw it shoot close to 47 percent from the field. The Panthers left with 60 points and a 36.2-percent clip.
Some of the difference between the teams on Wednesday can be attributed to this just not being Drury’s night. The Panthers’ season average is more than 10 percent higher than what they shot from the field against the Chaps. But Lubbock Christian’s zone also did its job. As Drury moved the ball around with quick passing on the perimeter and attempted to pick apart the Chaps’ presence in the paint, the Chaps contested shot after shot. They kept the Panthers from excelling on fast-break opportunities, too.
“Our will was not going to be broken,” Lubbock Christian Coach Steve Gomez said.
Just enough control of the ball
Lubbock Christian turned the ball over 29 times against Drury and saw the Panthers score 24 points off those turnovers.
It sounds bad, and it certainly isn’t good. But it’s important to remember Drury forced Nova Southeastern to commit 40 turnovers the night before and on average forces more than 30 per game. And, Lubbock Christian forced 22 turnovers of its own and turned those miscues by the Panthers into 19 points. So the Chaps only exited the matchup with a five-point deficit in a statistical category the Panthers dominated all season.
“What a war,” Gomez said. “What an absolutely tremendous team that we just played and survived against. You don’t think you could have 29 turnovers in a game and even sniff winning a game against a team that’s that good.”
And their pre-game prep for Drury’s press wasn’t that complicated, either.
“We really didn’t have time to do anything,” Gomez said. “We stood and looked at each other and pass-faked and caught passes. It’s about all we could do because we needed every ounce of energy today to use for this game.”