The UAA women's basketball team advanced to their first NCAA Division II Final Four berth in school history with a 71-65 overtime victory over Franklin Pierce today at the University of Nebraska-Kearney's Sports Center.
The No. 9-ranked Seawolves, now a school-record 30-4 on the season, were led by the double-double efforts of junior center Rebecca Kielpinksi (28 points, 14 rebounds) and senior guard Kahlie Quinones (16 points, 10 rebounds).
Their performance overshadowed a marvelous effort by the Ravens' Johannah Leedham, the 2008 NCAA II women's basketball player of the year. She scored 31 points and pulled in 18 rebounds after starting just one for eight from the field.
Franklin Pierce, the winner of the Northeast region, finished the season at 27-6.
The Seawolves will meet Northern Kentucky in the national semifinals at 4 p.m. Thursday ADT.
UAA outrebounded Franklin Pierce 50-36, including 26 offensive rebounds that led to 13 second-chance points.
It was a battle of contrasting styles as the Seawolves looked to pound the ball inside on nearly every possession while the Ravens were more of a perimeter-oriented team.
UAA's Ruby Williams had nine points and Maria Nilsson added six - all on free throws. Jennifer Salazar had a game-high eight assists.
Toby Martin was Franklin Pierce's only other double-figure scorer with 15 points.
The Seawolves forged a 30-25 halftime lead but saw that evaporate as Leeham scored the first seven points of the second half to help Franklin Pierce take a 32-30 lead. The Ravens built that to game-high eight-point advantage, at 54-46, with 7:24 to go.
UAA then went on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 54-54 on two Nilsson free throws at the 4:01 mark.
The lead seesawed and the teams were tied at 60-60 on a Kielpinski layup with :34 to go in regulation. A turnover by the Ravens led to a last-chance drive by Quinones. Her shot in the lane the :03 mark came up short and the game went into overtime.
Franklin Pierce went up 62-60 on a Jess McPherson lay-in with 4:28 to go in overtime, but it would be the last field goal the Ravens would score in the extra frame. Quinones hit a layup at 3:55 to tie it at 62-62, and Nilsson hit two free throws at the 3:13 mark to put UAA up for good.
Despite missing four straight free throws in overtime, Kielpinski hit a lay-in at 1:35 to put UAA up 66-62. Leedham hit three of four free throws over the next two possessions to bring the Ravens back to within one, 66-65, at 1:06. Salazar made a terrific entry pass and Kielpinski a nifty move to her left to put UAA up 68-65 with 35 seconds left.