SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Down two points with just over seven seconds on the clock, No. 10 Rocky Mountain College’s N’Dea Flye tried to tie it with a jumper from just outside the key, but No. 3 Thomas More’s Summer Secrist got a hand on the ball ending the Battlin’ Bears historic run in the NAIA Quarterfinals, 60–58.
Though their season comes to a close, Battlin’ Bears junior Kloie Thatcher says the progress this team has been able to make is monumental, and while it might be tough to do, not hang their heads in the loss.
“We didn't just come here to just play basketball, you know? We came here to bust our butt, to prove a lot of people wrong. We came into the season as underdogs and we proved a lot of people wrong,” said Thatcher. “I can't explain how proud I am of this team.”
From the jump, it appeared the Battlin’ Bears and the Saints were in for a defensive slugfest, where points would come at a premium.
Rocky Mountain College jumped out to its first lead of the game at 6-4 behind a Thatcher three-pointer with just under 5:40 left to play in the first quarter, but from there the Battlin’ Bears would play from behind until mid-way through the third quarter.
Though the leads varied, the Saints could never truly jump too far out in front with their largest lead coming with 7:41 left in the second quarter on a Zoie Barth three-pointer at 26-17.
Through it all Rocky persisted, quashing the Saints’ lead to just four points through the first half after Dominique Stephens hit two free-throws near the end of the second to make it 34-30.
In the third quarter, the Battlin’ Bears came out in a fury taking the lead at 40-38, and worked to extend it, taking their largest lead of the game at 46-39 with 4:22 to play in the third on a Gracee Lekvold jumper.
The Saints battled their way back near the end of the third quarter and cut the Rocky lead to just one point on a steal by Zoie Barth that turned into a Secrist buzzer-beater to make it 49-48 with just a quarter to play.
The fourth quarter saw both teams rely heavily on their defenses as neither team was able to crack the code on offense.
The Battlin’ Bears briefly saw their lead blossom to five with near eight minutes on the clock behind a Shauna Bribiescas jumper, and tried to keep their distance down the stretch, but Lekvold’s shot that put the score at 57-54 with 6:12 left in the game would be the final shot from the field Rocky would make in the contest.
Down 59-57, Stephens was fouled on a missed lay-up attempt and was sent to the line with a chance to tie the game, but was only able to sink one of them to make it 59-58.
Rocky, forced to foul, sent Courtney Hurst to the line. Up to that point, the Saints struggled from the free-throw line only making 6-16 from the line, and the trend continued as Hurst only sank one of them to make it 60-58 with seven seconds left to go.
With a bit of life left, the Rocky Mountain women tried to continue their season, but it was to no avail.
Flye finished with a game-high 19 points while adding 10 rebounds and Bribiescas finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
The Battlin’ Bears season comes to a close as the final Frontier Conference team to play this season. The Rocky Mountain College women finished the year making program history with their first NAIA national tournament win, a quarterfinal berth, a No. 10 ranking in the NAIA coaches poll and a 29-5 record.