Lady Lions basketball wins 81-69 over Allen to earn National’s berth
KINGSPORT, Tenn. – In the semifinal round of the Appalachian Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament on Friday, Bryan College did more than just avenge Allen University (S.C.) and advance to the AAC Tournament Championship Game. The Lions punched their ticket to the 27th Annual NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship (Mar. 7-13) by claiming the AAC’s second spot for the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
For the second time this week, Reinhardt and Bryan will meet to decide supremacy in the league as the top two seeds meet in the 2018 AAC Final. The Lions and Eagles played one another on Monday in a one-game playoff to decide the No. 1 seed and the league’s first automatic berth to nationals. Reinhardt won the meeting, which means regardless of who wins the championship game, both teams will advance to the national tournament. This marks the second-straight year that the Lions will make a national tournament appearance after winning four games in four days to claim the 2017 AAC Tournament Champion title.
The two will square off for the tournament crown on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 4pm at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center in Kingsport, Tenn.
Reinhardt battled their way through the semifinal round with a notable defensive display that proved too much for No. 4 seed Tennessee Wesleyan University as the Eagles outlasted the Bulldogs 65-60. On the opposite side of the bracket, it was Bryan who halted a 6th-seeded Allen team that had been on a roll recently with the Lions clawing their way to an 81-69 victory.
Even though Bryan was more efficient in shooting the ball during the first two quarters, the Lions struggled with turnovers which allowed Allen to keep pace as halftime approached. At the break, the Yellow Jackets trailed by only one point, 35-34. However, Bryan began to pull away as the third stanza unfolded. Three consecutive buckets by Amber Levi in the first two minutes of the third period helped the Lions get out in front 41-36. Tonesha Allison kept the rally going with a score in the paint at 6:13, growing the margin to seven points. At the two and a half minute mark, Shayla Ludy went unassisted and pulled up behind the arc where she sank a three-pointer for Bryan’s first double-digit advantage, 51-39. With one minute remaining in the frame, Levi took her turn connecting from deep, which gave the Lions their largest lead of the quarter, 56-42.
After outscoring Allen 21-8 in the third, Bryan was narrowly edged out in the fourth 27-25 by the Yellow Jackets, but the late effort wouldn’t have an effect as the Lions owned a double-digit difference for the entire quarter except for briefly with 1:28 left to play. Allen was forced to start fouling, but it was Luna, Combs, Allison, and Levi who each played a part in sealing the game at the foul line to go on and win 81-69.
Levi led the Lion’s offensively as she shot 7-of-14, including 2-of-6 from three-point range, to finish with a team-high 18 points. She recorded the double-double after corralling a team-best 10 rebounds. Ludy followed with 17 points after hitting 6-of-9 with a pair of three’s. The only other Bryan player to tally double-figures was Karli Combs who made 6-of-9 for 16 points. Allison flirted with a double-double, ending with nine points and nine boards. Luna compiled eight point and six rebounds. The duo of Emmy Allen and Tristan McClellan aided with four points, respectively, while Sarah Cain posted three points and Keneisha Love rounded out the scoring with two points.
As a team, Bryan shot 55.1 percent from the floor and was 38.9 percent successful from the perimeter, while Allen was 30.4 percent in the game and struggled at the three-point line where they made 12.5 percent. The Lions outrebounded the Yellow Jackets 43-34, but it was Allen who had the advantage when it came to turnovers. Bryan totaled 27 mishaps, and Allen surrendered just 15 while swiping 16 steals.