FRANKFORT, Ky. - On paper, the second quarterfinal game of the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championship was supposed to be a defensive battle. The result was exactly that, as Westmont (Calif.) avenged a December home loss to Westminster (Utah), 39-36, in the lowest-scoring game in NAIA DI Women's Basketball Championships history Saturday in Frankfort Convention Center.
The combined 75 points is 10 points lower than the previous record of 85 points in a 2004, which also featured Westmont. The Warriors lost that contest 43-42 against Brescia (Ky.) in the second round.
Westminster, the No. 1 ranked team in scoring defense, beat the Westmont Warriors, 62-29, on Dec. 29, 2012, a record low in Westmont history. Saturday's scoring total for the Warriors is the second lowest, but this time with a happy result.
Westmont (28-4) opened the game with a 6-2 lead, posting a five point lead, 12-7, as its largest of the first half after Esther Lee hit her first of three 3s in the game. Westminster responded with a 9-2 run to take its first lead of the game, 18-15, capped with five straight points from Kelsi Wells. Lee responded by ending the first have with five straight points during a 6-0 Westmont lead. The Colorado-Boulder transfer hit a three from the corner and then faked a 3 and drove the baseline for a pull-up jumper to give the Warriors a 21-18 lead at halftime.
Wells finished with 16 points to lead Westminster, while Lee finished with 15, including three treys, to lead Westmont, followed by 10 points and 13 rebounds by Tugce Canitez.
While the two teams combined for five 3-pointers in the first half, both teams were a combined 0-of-13 from the arc in the second half.
The final 20 minutes of play featured four lead changes in a game that was fast action and intense for a low-scoring affair.
Westminster opened the second half on a 6-2 run, taking the lead twice on baskets by Wells and Allie Eastman to gain the lead in the first three minutes. Brooke Larsen, who finished with eight points, led the way as Westminster built its lead to seven, 30-23, with 13:14 to play. It was the largest lead for either team during the afternoon.
Westmont quickly cut it to three, 30-27, with baskets by Cantiez and Lee. Both teams showed some flash as Nicole Yazzie found Wells on a layup pass from the top of the key, and then Lee sank a running floater to keep it a 3-point game, 34-31 with 6:24 to play. Only 10 points were scored from that point on. Westminster shot 0-for-9 from the floor in the final nine minutes.
Westmont's 39 points also the record for the lowest point total by a winning team in the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championships.
Westminster, winners of the Frontier Conference, finishes its season with a 29-4 record after making its second quarterfinal appearance in three years. Westminster held its opponents to an average of 46.5 points per game to lead the NAIA.
Westmont will meet top-ranked Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) in the NAIA Fab Four on Monday at 8 p.m. ET. Freed-Hardeman (34-1) is currently second in NAIA Division I for scoring defense, allowing 47.2 points per game.