NEW ORLEANS — In the second game of the NAIA National Women’s basketball tournament, the Carroll College Fighting Saints beat the Loyola New Orleans Wolfpack 65-59 to advance to the national tournament site in Sioux City, Iowa.
With just a two-point lead and 49 seconds on the clock, Carroll senior Jaidyn Lyman might have had a boarding pass to Sioux City on her mind after dropping a three-pointer that would seal the Fighting Saints' fate to the ‘Round of 16’.
The Fighting Saints bolted out of the gate early with an eight-point effort from Sienna Swannack, while staving off the Wolf Pack attack to the tune of 16-11 lead through the first quarter.
The second quarter brought more success to the Fighting Saints in the early stages as Carroll was able to extend their largest lead of the half to eight points on a Sienna Swannack jumper. However, the Fighting Saints struggled to maintain that lead as the Wolf Pack tore off on a 9-3 run to end the first half and tighten the deficit to 31-29 through the first half.
Despite the Fighting Saints' early success from the floor, Carroll struggled down the stretch shooting just 11-29 in the first half.
The second half saw the Fighting Saints pull away slightly early, but the Wolf Pack maintained stride with Carroll and the slugfest was on as both teams matched identically with 19 points apiece to keep the Carroll lead in neutral at 50-48.
Headed into the final frame, with a trip to Sioux City on the line, the Fighting Saints knew they had a job to do after stalling to end the first half and being unable to pull away to open the second half.
Carroll jumped out to an 11 point lead, behind a 12-2 run through the heart of the fourth quarter, at 62-51 with just under two minutes left to play, but it wouldn’t be March without a bit of madness.
The Wolf Pack defense closed in on the Fighting Saints and Kennedy Hansberry put up 6 straight points to help close the gap to just three points at 62-59 with just over a minute to play, but Lyman had other plans.
Despite struggling from deep early, Dani Wagner showed little remorse on Saturday afternoon with a game-high 22 points, while Lyman contributed 10 points off the bench including the clutch three-pointer to put the game out of reach.
With the win, the Fighting Saints will advance to the final site of the NAIA National Tournament in Sioux City and take on the Morningside Mustangs on Thursday at 3 p.m.