It is not uncommon to be talking about basketball late in the month of March when OCU is involved. And the Stars were out late again in 2014.
Oklahoma City defeated Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), 80-76, to bring home the seventh NAIA national championship for the women’s basketball program and second in three years.
But this is the first title for OCU coach Latricia Trammell, who was named National coach of the Year in her second year with the program. She said after the tournament she didn’t take anything for granted.
“It’s just like we were preaching to the girls that hard work pays off. And we were very blessed.”
The Stars finished the season 27-4 and went 18-2 in the Sooner Athletic Conference and won a fifth consecutive conference title.
OCU was upset by John Brown in the SAC Tournament, but earned a spot in the NAIA national tournament by virtue of taking the regular season crown.
The Stars had tight contests all the way through the tournament, winning the five contests by a total of 20 points.
They beat in-state rival Langston, 79-71, in the tournament opener and eight points was the largest margin of victory. Then there were three-point victories over Montana State-Northern and Campbellsville (Ky.) before a date with John Brown in the Fab Four.
OCU’s meeting with JBU was the fourth of the season (and went 3-1) and the Stars took a little revenge on the Golden Eagles, who had dismissed them from the league tournament. As was par for the course, it wasn’t easy. OCU took a 67-59 lead with 4:24 remaining, but didn’t score again. Solid defense allowed OCU to hold on for a 67-65 win in the national semifinal.
Oklahoma City faced Freed-Hardeman in the championship game and one of the keys to the victory was the production from the entire roster. The OCU bench outscored FHU’s bench, 15-0.
“One of our game goals going in was that our bench would outscore their bench, and we did,” Trammell said, after the win. “It was just a good team effort. Each one of our players contributed in this national tournament.”
There were eight lead changes in the game. OCU led 69-60 with just more than four minutes left, but the team found itself tied again at 76 apiece in the final minute. Yvonte Neal had the game winner with 15 seconds left to put her team on top and iced it with a rebound on a missed FHU shot and two free throws at the end.
Neal put in 36 points in the Stars’ victory in the title game and was named to the first team on the All-Tournament Team.
Tournament MVP Kayla MacKenzie also had a big game against FHU. She played the full 40 minutes and had 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Ouleymatou Coulibaly, Autumn Huffman, Markeisha Johnson, Autumn Lau and Cara Pugh all played big roles through the week and season.
“Big players make big plays, and there were a lot of players that made big plays,” Trammell said. “And I was really proud of this group.”
Neal was later named to the second team NAIA All-America list. MacKenzie and Lau were on the list as well as honorably mentioned.
Top 10 of 2014 – Honorable Mention
Top 10 of 2014 – No. 10: Savage Storm tops Golden Hurricane
Top 10 of 2014 – No. 9: Bison run in the SAC Tournament
Top 10 of 2014 – No. 8: Lady Dawgs upset No. 2 Harding to win GAC title
Top 10 of 2014 – No. 7: OKWU tops OBU in NAIA World Serires; finishes third in nation
Top 10 of 2014 – No. 6: Holmes hangs half-a-hundred on top 10 opponent
Top 10 of 2014 – No. 5: Pokes rally for overtime Bedlam victory
Top 10 of 2014 – No. 4: Cavs earn spot in Fab Four