It was a contest Saturday afternoon that played out as should have been expected between two top five teams and the top two seeds in their quadrant of the bracket.
No. 5 Oklahoma City won a three-point game for the second time in as many days, beating No. 4 Campbellsville, 79-76, to advance to the national semifinals NAIA Division I women’s basketball tournament.
The Stars will face fellow Sooner Athletic Conference member John Brown in the Fab Four on Monday at 6 p.m. at the Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky.
OCU coach Latricia Trammell spoke highly of her team’s performance and the girls themselves.
“I was really proud of our young ladies,” Trammell said. “They really fought through adversity and kept their composure.
“The team we played is a very good team. At one point they would score and then we would score; it just went back and forth. But you could see on our players’ faces the determination and confidence to win. I was really proud of the effort.
Six points was the largest lead for either team in a game that was tightly contested throughout.
Senior guard Cara Pugh had a career high, scoring 27 points, and during one run had 15 of her team’s 18 points.
“Cara really stepped up today,” Trammell said. “She kept us in the game, coming off the bench, and in the first half she had 21 points. She was really locked in.
“And Yvonte (Neal) got into some foul trouble, but she really did well, too.”
Neal had 19 points on the afternoon and opened up the scoring with 10 straight at the outset.
“You’ve probably heard it said that big players make big plays? Well, today we had a team of big players. It was just a lot of fun to see these young ladies play with such maturity.”
Kayla MacKenzie had 13 for the Stars and Autumn Huffman logged a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“Autumn Huffman told me after the game, ‘I knew we were going to win it,'” Trammell said. “‘None of us panicked. I just knew we were going to win this.’
“It was just an amazing time.”
For Huffman, it was the second double-double in the three games the Stars have played in the NAIA tournament.
“She’s just had a big tournament,” Trammell said. “She’s been consistent with her play and has been knocking down shots at crucial time.
“She’s just been a vocal leader on the floor and her teammates have been feeding off that.”
The Stars shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc and Trammell talked about her team’s effectiveness all over the court.
“They played a good inside and outside game. I remember Cara, in particular, knocking down some threes, but then when they were getting out there and defending her and taking that away, she was driving to the basket and making big plays in the paint. And Kayla did the same thing.”
OCU’s opponent on Monday evening is a familiar foe. The Stars have played the Golden Eagles three times already this season, winning two. John Brown won in the SAC tournament semifinals in the most recent meeting.
This time the stakes are a little higher in the national semifinals.