BILLINGS – After 22 trips to the national tournament, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) has its first ever NAIA D1 Women’s Championship.
The Lions beat Westmont (Cali.) 76-64 Tuesday night at Rimrock Auto Arena.
Guard Carrie Hatcher tied a career high with 22 points and was nearly unstoppable from outside splashing six-of-seven three-pointers.
Sandrea Sylman led all scorers with 24 points for the Lions. Kim Mallory chipped in with 23 as the ‘Big Three’ combined for 69 of Freed-Hardeman’s 76 points.
FHU led by 23-15 after one period, and by 12 at halftime. Westmont would trim the lead to five in the 4th quarter before the Lions iced their championship with free throws.
Westmont put five players in double-figures, let by Joy Krupa with 15. Krupa was also named the tournament’s Most Inspirational Player.
FHU advanced to the finals for the second time in school history by beating Montana-Western in Monday’s semifinals, 61-50. The last time the Lions advanced to the championship game was in 2014 when they fell to Oklahoma City, 80-76.
Earlier in the tournament, Freed-Hardeman set a new NAIA record for most free throws made in a game during the national championship tourney going 18-of-18 against Science & Arts.
Westmont advanced to the finals for just the second time in school history after 13 tournament appearances. The last time the Warriors advanced to the championship game was in 2013 when they earned their first red banner.
Westmont was a No. 1 seed out of the Cramer Bracket with wins over Cumberland (Tenn.), Loyola (La.), MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) and Wayland Baptist (Texas).
FHU was a No. 1 seed from the Liston Bracket with wins over The Master’s (Calif.), Science & Arts (Okla.), Central Methodist (Mo.) and Montana Western.