The Asbury University women’s basketball team took the NAIA national tournament by storm on Thursday.
On Friday, the Eagles will attempt to spring another upset.
Unranked Asbury (24-9) stunned No. 2 seed St Francis (Ill.) in the NAIA Division II Tournament at Sioux City, Iowa, 63-60 on Thursday to record its first-ever victory in a national tournament.
Brittany Warren from Pulaski County High School led Asbury’s Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions with 18 points. Savannah Taylor (Mercer County) had 13, and Kali Whiteside (Anderson County) delivered a game-high 14 rebounds. St. Francis (28-4) entered the game ranked No. 6 in the nation.
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First-year head coach Tim Brown’s Asbury squad, based in Wilmore, Ky., will meet third-seeded Tabor (Kan.) at 4:30 p.m. EST Friday. A live stream broadcast of the game may be purchased at NAIA.org.
Asbury students have planned a gathering Friday afternoon in the campus student center to watch the Eagles attempt to advance to the NAIA quarterfinals.
We knew they were going to make a run, we just knew we would find a way to hold ’em off.
Tim Brown, Asbury coach
The Eagles’ 17-player roster is populated with 15 players from Kentucky. In addition to Warren, Taylor and Whiteside, Asbury’s roster also includes Kylee Gorby (Grayson County), Cassidy Flynn (Estill County), AJ Lewis (Nelson County), Sarah Wood (Madisonville), Bailey Brown (Calloway County), Haley Warren (Pulaski County), Lizzie Hoffa (Walton-Verona), Catie Fletcher and Shelby McDonald (Woodford County), Ansley Stalcup (Clinton County), Victoria Floyd (Garrard County) and Oney Harrison (Tates Creek). The two non-Kentuckians are Meghan Miller of Middletown, Ohio, and Tisha Lane of Columbus, Ohio.
Asbury has won nine consecutive games, including four in overtime, so when St. Francis erased the Eagles’ 15-point second-quarter lead and took a 56-55 lead late in the game they knew what to do. Asbury clamped down defensively, forcing St. Francis into four missed shots and a turnover in the final minute and a half to preserve the victory.
“We knew they were going to make a run, we just knew we would find a way to hold ’em off,’’ Brown told the Sioux City Journal.
Asbury limited St. Francis to 39.3 percent shooting for the game.
Brittany Warren told the Sioux City Journal that Asbury’s experience in winning the KIAC and playing in the NAIA Tournament last year, paid dividends Thursday.
“They’re a very good team and they’ve beaten some very good teams, but their girls had never been here before,’’ she said. “And even though we lost our first-round game last year, we still came and I think just being on the court and the atmosphere, we were used to that because we had the same players, basically.’’