SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Putting perfection into words was almost as hard as the achievement for the University of Saint Francis women’s team after the No. 1-ranked Lady Cougars won their first NAIA Division II Women’s National Championship title with a 75-68 win over College of the Ozarks (COO) on March 18 at Tyson Events Center.
USF senior guard Skylarr Shurn scored 30 points and was named NAIA Championship Most-Valuable-Player. Teammate Brooke Ridley posted a double-double on one good ankle — 14 rebounds, 13 points — and was named to the all-championship first team while senior teammate Jenelle Wilson scored 19 points and was named to the all-championship second team.
On Wednesday, while on the bus returning to Fort Wayne, NAIA named Shurn NAIA Division II Player of the Year. Ridley, a Bishop Luers High School graduate, was also named NAIA First-Team All-America and Wilson was an All-America Honorable Mention selection.
NAIA Top 25 No. 1 USF led 37-36 at halftime and outscored the unranked Bobcats, 38-32, in the second half.
“I still don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” a smiling Shurn said while holding the MVP award. “I’m kind of speechless. To finish my senior year 38-0 with a championship, there’s really no better way to go out. I don’t know what else to say. It’s great.”
“Words really can’t describe it,” Wilson said. “Amazing … finally, my fourth year, we did it and it feels amazing. 38-0. … My freshman year we made the long trip and lost. Then we didn’t even make it the next year. Last year we had a tough loss. I don’t even know what to say about it. Nobody at USF has ever done it before, so to be a part of it is really special.”
“That’s the thing about this team, they never panicked,” USF Head Coach Gary Andrews said after accepting the Phyllis Holmes Coach of the Year Award. “You get out here to nationals, there are so many good teams, you just never know, but we kept getting better and more confident. We were also focused on the team we were playing. Nobody ever talked about the next game until it was time. I am so proud of this team and how whenever there was a challenge or some adversity, they pulled together to solve whatever came our way.”
“I don’t know if we could have done it without Brooke,” Shurn said. “She was so clutch for us tonight playing one good ankle.”
“I just tried not to think about it and once I got loose, it really didn’t bother me much,” the 2012 Luers grad said matter-of-factly. After rolling her ankle with about 11 minutes to play in the 68-64 win over Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.) in the Fab Four semifinal game, Ridley hobbled out of TEC in a boot and on crutches on Monday night.
“I’ve got to give our trainer Casey (Costa) and Kalah’s dad Joe (Baer) credit for doing all they knew to get my ankle playable,” Ridley added.
COO hit three 3-pointers in the final 1:05 to keep things interesting, but USF countered the late Bobcats bombardment by connecting on seven of eight free throws to keep the Bobcats at bay. Jeana Raper drew COO within five, 73-68, with just 11 seconds to play, but Shurn assured the USF win hitting two free throws with 10 seconds to play.
College of the Ozarks, which falls to 0-5 all-time in the national championship final, was led in scoring by Heinzler’s 22 points. The freshman ended the game 8-for-20 from the field, including a 4-for-11 effort from 3-point range. Emily Walker also scored in double-digits with 11 points.
The Bobcats ended the night shooting 40.7 percent (24-for-59) from the field. College of the Ozarks ended the season with a 27-10 record.
USF finished shooting .455 for the game, .385 in the second half on 10-for-26 shooting. The Lady Cougars shot .250 from 3-point (2 for 8) and USF shot .742 from the free-throw line (23 for 31). USF shot .810 at the free-throw line hitting 17-of-21 shots in the second half. USF outscored COO 36-28, 8-5 in fastbreak points.
Baer finished with six points, Montgomery four and senior Jessica Harrison two points on a rebound basket and a blocked shot.
2014 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship All-Tournament Team
Michelle Piepenburg, Cardinal Stritch (Wis.)
Tiesha Stokes, Davenport (Mich.)
Brooke Ridley, Saint Francis (Ind.)
Alice Heinzler, College of the Ozarks (Mo.)
Skylarr Shurn, Saint Francis (Ind.)
Alli Engbertson, Northwestern (Iowa)
Jamie Van Kirk, Hastings (Neb.)
Ashlynn Muhl, Morningside (Iowa)
Emily Walker, College of the Ozarks (Mo.)
Jenelle Wilson, Saint Francis (Ind.)
Championship Most Valuable Player
Skylarr Shurn, Saint Francis (Ind.)
NAIA Hustle Award
Kayla Kepler, College of the Ozarks (Mo.)
Phyllis Holmes Coach of the Year for 2014
USF Head Coach Gary Andrews, NAIA DII
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