Evangels’ rally falls just short in NCCAA semifinal setback

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MACU Sports
Levi Convirs, Sports Information Director

WINONA, IND. – The second-seeded Mid-America Christian University Evangels staged a furious rally to come back from a 20-point fourth quarter deficit, but the third-seeded Emmanuel College (Ga.) Lady Lions squeaked out a 75-74 win in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Tournament Semifinal tonight at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center on the campus of Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.

The Lady Lions now advance to the NCCAA title game Saturday, Mar. 18, against fourth-seeded Greenville College.

Emmanuel took the lead when Timia Reynolds split two free throws to snap a 74-74 tie with 12 seconds left.

MACU then had a chance to win it, but a go-ahead shot attempt by Sarai Rodriguez was off the mark and the Lady Lions secured the rebound to hang on for the win.

Things looked bleak for the Evangels after Lochlain Corliss scored early in the fourth period to put the Lady Lions in front by their largest margin of 70-50.

With the deficit still at 15, seniors D’Shala Powell and Jamie Lamb decided the Evangels weren’t going to go quietly and combined to score the game’s next 13 points to bring MACU within 72-70 at the 2:47 mark.

After Reynolds got inside to score for the Lady Lions to push the lead back to two possessions, Rodriguez stepped up with a huge three to make it a one-point game with 1:49 left.

The Evangels then got a defensive stop and Erika Brown pulled down the rebound and drew a foul.

Brown proceeded to hit one of two free-throws to forge the first tie since it was 2-2 at the 9:20 point of the opening quarter.

The Lady Lions led the majority of the way, jumping out to a 7-2 lead after Brittany Thompson scored the first bucket of the game for the Evangels.

Emmanuel was red-hot in the opening quarter, hitting their first 10 shots and 13-of-15 overall in the period to lead 29-18.

A three by Nevada Denton pulled the Evangels as close as seven in the second period before the Lady Lions stretched the lead back to 44-33 at the break.

It was still an 11-point lead when Emmanuel closed the third quarter with seven straight points to take a commanding 68-50 edge heading to the fourth.

Rodriguez scored 16 of her team-high 19 points in the second half for the Evangels (23-12). She hit five of her six three-point attempts and is now only one point shy of 1,000 for her career.

Powell scored 13 and Brown finished with nine points and a career-high tying eight rebounds.  Mikki Flores recorded a game-high six assists for MACU.

Elise Coberly paced the Lady Lions (17-12) with 21 points and nine rebounds. Reynolds scored 18 and Mikayla Trombley chipped in with 15 points.

After the Lady Lions shot 61.3 percent (19-of-31) in the first half, the Evangels managed to cool them down to 35.7 percent (10-of-28) in the second half, including only 3-of-10 in the fourth quarter when MACU made their charge back.

The Evangels will now finish their season in the NCCAA Third-Place game Saturday against top-seeded Roberts Wesleyan College.  Tip-off is set for 11 am CDT.