Greencastle, Ind. - DePauw scored 10 straight points late in the fourth quarter and fought off second-seed Denison on the way to a 61-50 win in the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament championship game. The 24-4 Tigers earned the program's 16th straight bid to the NCAA Division III postseason and will learn their first-round opponent and site on Monday at 2:30 via the selection show on NCAA.com. The NCAC tourney title was DePauw's sixth in eight seasons in the conference. Denison finished its season at 18-9.
The Tigers, who never trailed in the game, got out to a quick 10-1 lead and led at the quarter break, 14-5. DePauw extended that lead to as many as 13 on two occasions with the second coming on Mya SHannon's two free throws that made it 26-13 with 2:36 left in the half. Denison, however, turned the momentum around by scoring the final 12 points of the half with Lauren Longbrake's layup with 20 seconds left closing the gap to 26-25.
DePauw again started to pull away after scoring the final six points of the third including Sydney Kopp's bucket with three seconds left that made it 44-33.
The Big Red weren't done as they scored eight straight in the opening 2:17 of the fourth as Lauren Hofer hit five free throws and Lily Morris a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 44-41 with 7:43 left. Denison had a chance to take the lead midway through the fourth, but Longbrake's layup fell off the rim and Maya Howard responded with a jumper to give DePauw a 48-45 advantage. Hofer hit one of two free throws to close the margin to two before Howard knocked in another jumper and Claire Keefe followed with a 3-point play that started with a feed from Howard.
Natalie Kehrt's steal then led to another bucket from Howard and a Denison miss was followed by two free throws from Shannon to make it 57-46 with 1:38 left. Shannon added another charity toss at the 1:04 mark to cap the 10-0 run and extend DePauw's lead to 58-46 and secure the win.
Keefe was named the Nan Nichols Most Valuable Player after leading the Tigers with 15 points and sharing rebounding honors with Hayley Cange with six. Howard added 12 points including eight in the fourth quarter along with four assists. Cange scored 10 to match her season high.
Hofer paced Denison with 15 points and Shonta Lockett grabbed six rebounds.
The Tigers shot 42.3 percent for the game including 48 percent in the second half, while the Big Red connected on 32.8 percent and just 25.8 percent in the second half. DePauw outrebounded Denison, 39-31, and the Tigers nailed 16 of 18 free throws to Denison's 9 of 15.
Joining Keefe on the all-tournament team were DePauw's Sydney Kopp, Hofer and Longbrake from Denison, Tia Karras from Ohio Wesleyan and Wittenberg's Delaney Williams.