FHU Falls in Fab Four; Azusa Advances to Final
Azusa Pacific (Calif.) will return to the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship following a 58-46 win over Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) Monday in Oman Arena. The Cougars improve their record to 32-5 and will play Union (Tenn.) in a rematch of last year’s title game Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Lady Lions’ season comes to a close with a 27-9 record. It was their third trip to the semifinals and first since 2008. Freed-Hardeman is forced out by the Cougars for the second-consecutive season. In 15 National Championship appearances, the Lady Lions own a mark of 21-15. The two teams swapped baskets for the first eight points of the game, starting a trend that lasted for the entire first half. The first 20 minutes boasted eight ties and eight lead changes. Azusa Pacific held its largest lead of three points three different times in the first half, with the latest coming 17-14 at the 8:30 mark. Freed-Hardeman held its largest lead of four points at halftime, 34-30. The second half was a different story as Azusa Pacific came out of the locker room with an 11-0 run over the first 4:36 to push out in front, 41-34. That score remained for the next three minutes when Freed-Hardeman finally tallied its first bucket of the half at the 12:47 mark. The Lady Lions cut the deficit down to four points, 45-42, at the 9:29 mark following a 3-pointer from Natalie Shumpert. That was as close as Freed-Hardeman came down the stretch. Azusa Pacific’s CJ Hill and Briana Hall converted on back-to-back possessions to push the Cougar lead up to eight points. In the final two minutes of play, Azusa Pacific scored field goals on four of its final five possessions to extend its lead to the largest of the game with the 58-46 final. The second half shooting numbers tell the story as Azusa Pacific sank 62 percent of its shots from the field in the final 20 minutes, while Freed-Hardeman shot just 15 percent. The Lady Lions were outscored 28-12 in the second half. Meribeth Boehler finished with a double-double to lead the Lady Lions, posting 18 points and 16 rebounds. The tournament leader with 104 points, Boehler was held to just six points in the final 20 minutes of play. Shumpert added 12 points, but was just 5-of-22 from the field.