Lancaster Bible Advances in NCCAA Div. I Playoffs

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The Lancaster Bible women's basketball team kept its season alive on Thursday night as the Chargers defeated Ohio Christian, 84-77 in the NCCAA Div. I Midwest Region Semifinals at Horst Athletic Center. The victory moves the Chargers into the NCCAA Div. I Midwest Region Final where they will face top-seeded Roberts Wesleyan. The region final will be played on Saturday at Roberts Wesleyan in Rochester, N.Y. The winner of that game will earn the region's automatic bid to the NCCAA Div. I National Tournament in Winona Lake, Ind. next week.

How it Happened: With both teams coming off a significant time between games, one might expect the play to be sloppy, but it was anything but that in the early going as both teams came out firing. The teams exchanged 4-0 runs through the first 2:46 as the Chargers jumped out to a 4-0 lead only to see it erased before taking an 8-4 lead. After four more points from Ohio Christian, the game was tied 8-8 with 7:14 to play in the first. The teams continued to trade buckets throughout the first quarter as neither team led by more than three points, after the early four-point leads by Lancaster Bible. Two late free throws by Deshay Thomas gave Ohio Christian a 26-23 lead after 10 minutes of play.

Ohio Christian maintained a single-digit lead throughout the second quarter and eventually took its biggest lead of the game with 1:59 to play in the quarter at 45-35. Lancaster Bible chipped away at the deficit for the rest of the half and thanks to two free throws from Aubrey Folger with three seconds remaining, trailed just 45-41 at the break.

Lancaster Bible kept up the pressure to start the third quarter as the Chargers scored the first four points of the half and tied the game at 45-45 on a layup from Folger with 8:15 left in the quarter. The game remained tight throughout the quarter with the teams exchanging the lead seemingly every minute. Ohio Christian claimed the lead, 61-59, after three quarters as Olivia Davis hit a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining. 

Ohio Christian extended its lead 2:12 into the quarter and led 64-59 after a layup from Thomas. Lancaster Bible took the momentum right back with an 8-0 run over the next 2:42. The run was highlighted by a beautiful give-and-go by Mary Finkbeiner and Alyssa Bowen. Lancaster Bible's lead shrunk back to one two minutes later as Paige Lewis converted a layup with 2:43 remaining to make it 69-68. 

Two free throws and a three-point play from Katy Stover gave Lancaster Bible a 74-68 lead with 1:27 left. The three-point play was set up on another great pass from Finkbeiner as she finished with four points and three assists. The Trailblazers cut the deficit to three a minute later at 80-77, but Krissy Pennell was a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line down the stretch and helped ice the game for the Chargers.

By the Numbers: Lancaster Bible shot 28-of-50 (56 percent) from the floor, including a 16-of-25 (64 percent) mark in the first half...Stover led the Chargers with 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting and she was a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line...Shanice Smith had 26 points and 13 rebounds to go along with three steals and two blocks...Aubrey Folger added 20 points and 13 boards as well...The three seniors combined for 73 of the team's 84 points...Pennell finished with six points and three assists...Lewis led Ohio Christian with 21 points on 10-of-21 shooting.

The Coach Says: "Our seniors were excited to play at home one more time together and they came out relaxed tonight," Lancaster Bible Head Coach Katelyn Vanderhoff said. "They set the tone for the rest of the team and the team responded. I think each person had a big moment tonight and contributed to this win. We played with no fear and just went out and played hard."

On Saturday's opponent..."Roberts Wesleyan is obviously a tough opponent and we will have to play with lots of energy and fight for everything we get," Vanderhoff said. "We are grateful to get the chance to play together at least one more time and just like tonight, there will be little to no pressure and we will give it everything we have."

Extra! Extra!: Lancaster Bible is now 4-2 all-time against Ohio Christian...The Chargers defeated the Trailblazers, 67-62 in the 2014 NCCAA Div. II National Tournament Third Place Game...Lancaster Bible finishes the season with a 14-1 record at Horst Athletic Center...In four seasons, Folger was part of a program that went 52-5 at Horst Athletic Center...This is Lancaster Bible's first NCCAA Division I postseason victory...Both soccer teams lost this past fall in the NCCAA Div. I Midwest Region Semifinals.

Up Next: Lancaster Bible takes on Roberts Wesleyan in the NCCAA Div. I Midwest Region Final at 1 p.m. on Saturday...The game can be seen live here: LIVE VIDEO