CBT's NCCAA Women's D2 Update
Regular season play has concluded, and regional championship games have been settled. That means it is time for the Madness of March to begin.
The National Christian College Athletic Association D-II Women’s Basketball National Championship starts Thursday (March 10) at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Mo.
After winning the championship last season, top-ranked Champion Christian College remains as the team to beat. The Tigers finished the regular season with a record of 17-5 and had the highest scoring offense in the NCCAA, averaging 82.9 points a game. Champion Christian, which is ranked No. 2 in the NCCAA power rankings, won the Southwest Regional Championship to secure its trip to Joplin.
The other regional champions featured in this year’s tournament are No. 6 Campbellsville University Harrodsburg, No. 7 Trinity Bible College, and No. 8 Bob Jones University. The other four teams – No. 2 Pensacola Christian College, No. 3 Ozark Christian College, No. 4 Arlington Baptist University and No. 5 Grace Christian University – were chosen as the at-large selections by the NCCAA tournament committee.
The Tigers’ 2021 championship was nothing short of shocking. They took down the No. 1 seeded Arlington Baptist 87-81. Arlington had dominated D-II, winning five consecutive titles from 2015-2019.
Arlington Baptist, No. 5 in the NCCAA power ratings, is looking to regain its championship status. In NCCAA statistics, the Patriots are fourth in scoring at 77 a game, third in assists at 18.4 a game and second in shooting accuracy at 42 percent.
Should Champion Christian repeat, it would continue a remarkable rise - the school’s women’s basketball program debuted in 2020.
“It would be pretty important, and I think it would be special, obviously since last year was the first time ever winning it in school history,” Tigers’ coach DeAnthony Ellison said.
The Tigers are led by Nay Manning and Destiny Gonzalez, who decided to return for a fifth year after the 2020 tournament was cut short due to COVID-19. In 2021, Manning was named the Most Outstanding Player for the tournament and both Manning and Gonzalez made the All-Tournament Team.
“For them to win back-to-back would be great,” Ellison said.
Ozark Christian College serves as one the biggest threats to Champion Christian and the other contenders. The Ambassadors beat the Tigers on Jan. 4 in a thriller, 71-68, which was just one of their 22 regular season wins. However, Champion Christian won the rematch in the Southwest Regional title game, 76-72, on Feb. 26. In the national tournament, Ozark Christian will be playing on its home court.
A huge focus for any team when facing the Ambassadors is containing junior center Kamryn Gentry. She is an elite glass cleaner who led the NCCAA, averaging 16 rebounds a game in the regular season. She also contributed 2.3 blocks a game while shooting 66 percent from the field.
Another powerhouse team is Pensacola Christian College. The Eagles had a regular-season record of 18-2 and fell just short of winning the South Regional Championship when they lost to Bob Jones University.
During the regular season they proved to be a menace to teams in the eight-team bracket. The Eagles took down Grace Christian University and Bob Jones twice and Campbellsville-University Harrodsburg once.
Opponents’ game plans focus on stopping Pensacola Christian senior guard Lauran Alvarez. She is a triple-threat, leading the team in points (16.9), rebounds (13.7) and assists (3.9).
The tournament opens at 3 p.m. Thursday (March 9) when Champion Christian starts its defense of its title against Bob Jones University. To stay up to date with the games and results, follow @NCCAAChamps on Twitter or visit thenccaa.org.
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