Warriors conquer Stars; face Cumberland in Sweet 16

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – Redemption! It was on the players' minds all week and the Lewis-Clark State College women's basketball team got it on Wednesday night in a 67-52 victory over Oklahoma City University inside the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena to wrap up day one of the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship.

"They are one of the most winningest programs in NAIA history and are two wins shy of tying the tournament record for wins," said Warriors Head Coach Brian Orr. "They are the two-time defending champions and last year was a heartfelt loss for us. The returners on our squad couldn't stop talking about it and wouldn't let it go. We came out focused and had great intensity all night. I won't call it a redemption win, but it feels really good."

The 17th-ranked and fifth-seeded Stars came in needing just one victory to match Union (Tenn.) for the all-time record at the tournament, but the 13th-ranked and fourth-seeded Warriors were determined to end their 2016 trip early. LCSC had lost the last five tournament meetings against OCU.

Lewis-Clark State earned the victory the way they have all season, strong defense and accurate shooting. LCSC limited the Stars to 19-for-56 from the field for 33.9 percent accuracy and just five 3-pointers. Offensively, the Warriors converted 26-of-59 shots for 44.1 percent accuracy including 11-of-26 from beyond the 3-point arc, 42.3 percent accuracy.

"I thought we defended well all night long. We were strong both halves and I was really impressed by our post defense. Brittany (Tackett) guarded No. 22, Wallen, she was the MVP of their league and Brittany held her to 16 points, below her average and she needed 22 shots to get there.

Hannah was also unbelievable tonight. She helped on defense, recovered well and did a great job on her player too. The perimeter defense was also good and we even got some steals on the perimeter which was good to see," stated Orr.

Hannah Byerly (SR/Caldwell, Idaho) got the scoring started, converting on the Warriors first offensive possession and then Caelyn Orlandi (JR/Coeur d'Alene, Idaho) found Brooke Litalien(JR/Post Falls, Idaho) for back-to-back 3-point field goals to put LC ahead 8-0 in the opening 3:15. Three possessions later Orlandi connected with Litalien again from beyond the arc to make it a 10-point game, 15-5.

After taking a 20-12 lead into the second quarter, the Warriors pushed the margin to 17, 36-19, with just 3:11left in the first half on a Megan Risinger (JR/Tigard, Ore.) and-1. A pair of Allison Frey 3-pointers cut the lead to nine, but Orlandi found Risinger for a three and Laurenna Plourd (SR/Bothell, Wash.) underneath to put LC State in front 41-27 at the break.

The Stars never got the deficit back to single digits over the final 20 minutes as the Warriors used a 12-9 fourth quarter to seal the victory and their 14th trip to the NAIA Sweet 16; ninth under Orr.

"Goose (Caelyn Orlandi) didn't shoot great tonight, but she had 11 first half assists which was huge," Orr said. "Brooke shot the ball really well and Goose did a great job of getting her open looks. Everyone came in and contributed tonight and it was a total team effort. It's just more special to see it happen at nationals."

Litalien finished with a game-high 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, all from beyond the arc. She also added six rebounds. Byerly and Tackett added 10 points each while grabbing eight and seven rebounds, respectively. Risinger and Kaylea Knox (JR/Rainier, Ore.) both finished with nine points and Orlandi tallied a season-high 13 assists.

Daniela Wallen led the Stars with 16 points and 12 boards.

The Warriors now turn their attention to eighth-seeded Cumberland (Tenn.) Phoenix who upset top-seeded Bethel (Tenn.) 56-51 on Wednesday night. LC and Cumberland will play on Friday at 12:15 p.m. PDT with streaming available on the campus of LCSC in the upstairs of the SUB and at Zany's in Lewiston.

"Our schedule changes completely," said Orr of the early start on Friday. "We've been doing everything late, including a 9 PM practice after the banquet (Tuesday night). We've been sleeping in and acclimating to the time change, now that changes. We have to readjust our preparation schedule and get to work.

Cumberland looked really good tonight and they have a big upset. It's doesn't matter who you are playing whether it's the one or the eight you have to be ready to go. They present some matchup problems, but we will look at some film and get prepared. I know this; the girls are focused and ready to go; they have great intensity and we are playing really well together."

The victory is the third straight for the Warriors who improved to 26-6 and will be facing Cumberland in the tournament for the second time under Orr, having lost in the second round in 2007, 86-83. A win on Fridaywill give LC their first Elite 8 trip since 2008.

*Photo by
Jerek Wolcott, Carroll College*