BILLINGS, Mont. – Oklahoma City University secured its ninth NAIA Division I women's basketball championship by triumphing 73-66 over Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) on Tuesday at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.
Fifth-ranked Oklahoma City (34-2) earned its fourth national crown in six years in women's basketball. Daniela Wallen took tournament most valuable player.
Wallen, a senior from Caracas, Venezuela, supplied OCU with 25 points, nine rebounds and three steals. During the tournament, Wallen produced 24.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.40 steals a game while shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from 3-point range.
Daniela Galindo posted 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Stars. Galindo, a junior from Shattuck, Okla., made the all-tournament first team after collecting 22.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest while hitting 13 3-pointers in the five tournament games over the past week. Both Galindo and Wallen played the entire game.
Oklahoma City won its 64th national championship in all sports. The Stars captured the NAIA competitive cheerleading crown March 11 in Oklahoma City to extend their string of winning a national title each year since 1993-94.
"To see their faces is what's so special about this," said Oklahoma City head coach Bo Overton, who became the Phyllis Holmes NAIA Division I coach of the year. "You know how hard they work all year and how hard they work their whole career for a game like this and then for it to happen is really special."
OCU ended the season on a 20-game winning string in becoming the fifth team in program history to win as many as 34 games. OCU reached 34 victories each season from 2000-04.
The Stars held Lewis-Clark State to 37.7 percent shooting from the field. OCU dealt second-ranked Lewis-Clark State (35-2) its first loss since Feb. 3 and halted Lewis-Clark State's 12-game winning streak.
"That team we beat was a great team," Overton said. "You can't ask for any more from these players. I thought our length bothered them. We got some deflections. Our defense won the game for us."
OCU shot 51.9 percent from the floor and 59.1 percent from the field in the second half. Lewis-Clark State sliced its deficit to three points three times in the second half.
Brittany Tackett hit a free throw that cut OCU's edge to 45-42 with 6:31 showing in the third quarter, while Jossilyn Blackman scored to shrink the OCU lead to 47-44 at the 6:00 mark. Mariana Duran answered each time with a bucket.
Blackman sank a jumper that reduced the Stars' lead to 66-63 with 2:12 remaining. Wallen came back with a baseline jumper at the 1:09 mark, then Duran sank a pair of free throws. Duran swiped a steal, then fed Galindo on a breakaway layup to build OCU's lead to 72-63 with 30 seconds left.
Late in the first quarter, Brooke Litalien hit a trey to put Lewis-Clark State ahead 15-14. OCU responded with a 9-0 onslaught as Galindo buried a 3-pointer that put the Stars on top 23-15 early in the second period. Wallen's putback provided OCU a 33-23 advantage midway through the second.
2017 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championship Most Outstanding Player – Daniela Wallen, Oklahoma City
2017 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championship Hustle Award – Kelsey Scherder, William Woods (Mo.)
2017 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Coach of Year – Bo Overton, Oklahoma City
2017 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball All-Championship Team
Emily Fox, Campbellsville (Ky.)
Caelyn Orlandi, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)
Daniela Galindo, Oklahoma City
Claire Lamunu, Vanguard (Calif.)
Kayla Sato, Westmont (Calif.)
Madison Stewart, Campbellsville (Ky.)
Kim Mallory, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)
Kayla Styles, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)
Natalee Faupel, Montana State-Northern
Aniese Palmore, Montana Western