JACKSON, Tenn. – March 20, 2006 – The Union University Lady Bulldogs took a 40-14 halftime lead over The Master’s College (Calif.) and held on for a 62-51 win to advance to the NAIA National Championship Game for the second straight season. Union, now 30-6 on the season, will defend their title of last season versus Lubbock Christian University (Texas) on Tuesday night at 6:00 pm.
With the win, Union extended their national tournament winning streak to nine games. In those nine wins covering two seasons, Union has posted double digit wins in seven of the national tournament games. The win also was the 30th of the season for Union which gives the Lady Bulldogs and head coach Mark Campbell six straight 30-plus win seasons.
In the first half, Union jumped out to a 20-2 lead in the game and then stretched the lead to 40-14 after the first twenty minutes. In fact, Union led by as many as 27 points (38-11) at the 1:17 mark of the first half. Union shot 47 percent from the field and 40 percent (4-10) from behind the arc in the first. Defensively, Union dominated the first half by allowing just 14 total points from the Master’s on just 19 percent shooting from the field (5-27).
However, Master’s proved why they were a final four team as they slowly started their second half rally versus a sluggish Union team coming out of the locker room. Master’s opened the second half on a 7-0 run to cut Union’s lead to 19 points at 42-23 with 16:09 left in the game. Union answered the run and stretched the lead back to 25 points, 50-25 with 13:47 left on a three pointer by Merideth Richardson. Then, over the next 12 minutes of play, Master’s outscored Union 24-5 to cut the Union lead to just six points at 55-49 with 1:39 left in the game. At one point during that stretch, Union missed four open lay-ups in five possessions.
Then as seniors so often do, Ena Daniels took the game over to get Union back in control of the contest and remove any chance of Master’s getting any closer. Over the final 1:30 of the game, Daniels scored three points, grabbed three rebounds, blocked two shots, and recorded two steals. Crystal Eason also sank 4-of-4 free throws in the final minute to help get Union’s lead back to 13 points at 62-49. Master’s made a lay-up as time expired to make the final score 62-51.
Union was led by Josephine Owino with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Crystal Eason added 10 points for Union. The Lady Bulldogs finished the game shooting 36 percent from the field and just 25 percent (5-20) from behind the arc.
Master’s was led by Kinsley Mittel with 18 points followed by Angela Gimeno with 12 points. Courtney Jackson added 12 rebounds in the game. Master’s shot 32 percent from the field and 33 percent (2-6) from behind the arc.
Union will play in their second straight national title game on Tuesday night at 6 pm versus the Cinderella story of the tournament, sixth seeded Lubbock Christian. Lubbock Christian knocked off the top seed in the tournament and No. 1 ranked team in the nation, Vanguard 69-59 in the first semifinal game of the night. To this point in the tournament, Lubbock Christian has defeated two #1 seeds, a #2 seed, and a #3 seed to get to their first title game in just their third trip to the tournament.
This marks Union’s fifth trip to the NAIA title game. The Lady Bulldogs have a two game winning streak in NAIA title games as they won the 1998 title and then won the title in their next and most recent appearance in 2005. Union lost the title game in 1993 and 1997.
By Steven Aldridge
Sports Information Director