WAXAHACHIE, Texas – The 12th-ranked Wayland Baptist Flying Queens not only won their 21st consecutive game here Saturday, but they also came from behind against No. 17 Oklahoma City to capture the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament title, 71-58.
With the win, the Queens (25-4) earned their second-ever SAC Tournament title, and first since 2000, and more importantly clinched a spot in the NAIA Division I Women's National Championships for the third straight year. The tournament will be held in Independence, Mo., March 16-22.
"I'm really excited for these kids more than anything," Coach Alesha Robertson-Ellis said. "They deserve this. This is what they worked for, and it's nice to see it all pay off."
Hard work might be the perfect words to describe Wayland's performance during Saturday's game against the defending national champions.
After scoring first and taking their only lead of the first half, the Flying Queens allowed a 9-1 run. The Stars (20-8) held the Queens to 33 percent shooting (5-of-15) in the first quarter and forced WBU into plenty of fouls. OCU held a 17-13 edge heading into the second quarter.
"We got off to a slow start shooting the ball," Robertson-Ellis said. "(OCU) came out with a lot of energy."
Things for the Queens didn't get much better and they took another blow as senior Krystal Forthan picked up her third foul early in the second.
Despite the negatives, the Queens picked up their shooting thanks to senior Brianna Bogard, who went 3-of-4 in the half, and were only down three points going into halftime, 34-31.
"She kept us in the game," Robertson-Ellis said of Bogard. "She did well on the defensive and offense ends. She took control of the game."
After the half, the Queens assumed their first lead since the first bucket of the game, but didn't hold onto it for long. Once again, the Flying Queens found themselves down by only three heading into the last quarter, 46-43.
"I knew we could get over the hump," Robertson-Ellis said. "We could take off with the lead."
And what a take-off it was!
Going into the fourth, the Queens needed a spark to get their offense and defense flowing. Starting senior guard Laura Castillo took charge, making three consecutive 3-pointers. The first of those untied the game to the give the Queens a 55-52 lead, and the next two gave Wayland some breathing room and ignited the defense.
"She knocked down some big shots," Robertson-Ellis said. "The 3 she hit to tie the game was huge. We started to play relaxed."
The Stars were held scoreless for six crucial minutes and shot only 37 percent in the second half. Another problem the Queens took on was slowing down the SAC Newcomer and Player of the Year, Daniella Wallen, who finished with 14 points and rebounds, but only had six points in the second half.
"We knew she was going to get her points," Robertson-Ellis said. "We didn't want the rest of the team to beat us. I was nervous until the end."
In the end, Robertson-Ellis and the Queens cut down the net and will take it back to Plainview along with some accolades, a trophy and three individual awards.
Castillo, who finished with 19 points, including 5-of-11 from the 3-point line, was named the tournament MVP. She and fellow senior Stephanie Afunugo and junior Jade Jones made the All-SAC First Team. Afunugo finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, while Jones had six points and eight boards.
Bogard, who finished with 13 points, was given the Hustle Award.
Daniella Wallen and Mariana Duran topped OCU with 14 points each. Wallen posted her 13th double-double of the season as she added 14 rebounds. Markeisha Johnson supplied the Stars with 11 points, and Catherine Kruschke notched eight points and seven rebounds. Wallen and Kruschke both were named all-tournament.
The Queens now await their seeding in the national tournament, to be announced during a selectin show at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The Stars secured one of the SAC's national tourney bids by advancing to the SAC Tournament championship game. Oklahoma City will advance to its 19th consecutive and 22nd overall national tournament. The eight-time national champion Stars captured the past two national titles.
MVP -- Laura Castillo, WBU
Hustle Award -- Brianna Bogard, WBU
Jade Jones, WBU
Staphanie Afunugo, WBU
Catherine Kruschke, Oklahoma City
Daneila Wallen, WBU
Lindsey Mann, MACU