NKU’s Angela Healy (42) and Jessie Slack (right) defend
Alaska Anchorage post player Rebecca Kielpinski during the
second half Thursday night. NKU held on for a 57-54 win over
the Seawolves to advance to the NCAA Division II national
FOR PHOTO GALLERY
- Given the frigid shooting percentages of Northern Kentucky University’s
opponent Thursday night, it was only fitting that team was from
the state of Alaska.
the University of Alaska Anchorage to 29.1 percent from the field
and held on for a 57-54 victory over the Seawolves in the NCAA Division
II national semifinals. The Norse (27-8) placed four players in
double figures, showed extreme toughness on the defensive end of
the court during the final three minutes and earned a trip to Saturday’s
national championship game against South Dakota (33-1) at 6 p.m.
led NKU with 13 points, while Jessie Slack scored 12. Cassie Brannen
and Angela Healy each finished with 10 points, but both players
fouled out late in the second half.
its best two inside players, NKU held off the Seawolves in the closing
moments. Alaska Anchorage had two chances in the closing seconds,
but Maria Nilsson’s 3-point attempt was off the mark.
grabbed the offensive rebound and missed a short jumper as time
expired, sending NKU to the national championship game for the third
time in nine years.
a classic, and it will probably be on ESPN Classic in the next three
hours or so,” NKU head coach Nancy Winstel joked. “What
a great game. It was back and forth, very physical and a lot of
big plays by both teams. We could not put them away.
used to playing physical in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Alaska
is a very good defensive team, and we did not expect to score a
whole lot of points. Our defense pulled it out for us at the end.
If we defend, we have a chance. The girls showed a lot of heart
in this one.”
on its way to coasting into the national championship game with
6:29 left on the clock after Slack buried a jumper to give the Norse
a 45-36 lead. NKU still owned a nine-point advantage with 3:53 remaining
after a Healy basket made it 50-41.
however, used an 11-4 run to slice NKU’s lead to 54-52 with
1:13 left. The Norse also had to hold on during the final minute
without their top two scorers, Brannen and Healy. Brannen fouled
out with 1:13 left, and Healy exited the game with 48 seconds left
on the clock.
given night, we have several players who are capable of putting
up 25 points, and our balance makes us very hard to defend,”
said Slack, who made two huge free throws with 57 seconds remaining
to extend NKU’s lead to 56-52.
celebrates after defeating Alaska Anchorage in the national
semifinals. The Norse meet South Dakota for the national championship
Saturday at 6 p.m.
Echoles, a Colerain
High School graduate, keyed NKU in the first half by knocking down
a pair of 3-pointers and converting a steal into a breakaway layup.
The Norse held a 26-21 lead at the break as Echoles paced the offense
with eight first-half points.
is amazing, and one of the reasons several of us came to NKU was
because we knew we would have a chance to win a national championship
here,” Echoles said. “I remember talking with Karen
Brackman one day about that, and I said, ‘We
are going to win a national championship here one day.’ It
still hasn’t sunk in yet that we are about to play in the
national championship game.”
NKU shot 44.7
percent from the field and converted 64.3 percent of its free throws.
Nicole Chiodi grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for the Norse, while
Healy collected eight boards. Slack picked up five steals and added
led Alaska Anchorage with 16 points. Ruby Williams added 12 points
and nine rebounds for the Seawolves, who defeated Franklin Pierce
in overtime in the national quarterfinals on Wednesday.
NKU will make
its first national championship game appearance since 2003, when
the Norse dropped a 65-50 decision to South Dakota State. The same
state will provide the opposition Saturday when No. 3 South Dakota
- which knocked off previously unbeaten and top-ranked Delta State
in the other semifinal contest Thursday night - meets NKU for the