Playing with tremendous heart and passion that Lee coach Marty Rowe admitted he had not seen since his former Brescia University team made the NAIA Division I Women's National Championship final run 10 years ago, his Lady Flames up-ended defending national champs Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon.
Lee advanced to the semi-finals for the first time since 2010 and wasted no time in showing the Stars that they meant business. Before the first four minutes had passed, the Lady Flames were on top 8-0 and never trailed in the huge 59-48 victory.
Lee will get a full day of rest on Sunday and return to the Frankfort Convention Center for a 6 p.m. battle against Cumberland University on Monday. Cumberland, the Mid-South Conference champion, defeated Lubbock Christian 63-61 in the late Saturday night game.
Rowe was over-joyed with his team's performance against a club that had won 25 straight before losing to Lubbock in the Sooner Conference tournament. "Amazing, amazing, amazing," he said over and over after his club defeated the No. 1 seeded team. "I know I've said it many times, but I'm so proud of this team. They came into this game believing they could win and battled a tremendous Oklahoma City team for the entire 40 minutes."
The defensive gem saw the Lady Flames lead at the break, 27-21 and extend the lead to 13 points at the 15:15 mark. As expected, the Stars fought right back behind the post play of Katie Hall (24 points) and cut the Lee lead to 48-45 with 2:39 remaining.
A key bucket and the only score of the game by Brooke Hamby helped turn Lee back in the winning direction and from that point on, powered by free-throw shooting by Jenna Adams and Hollie German, put the sweet victory away.
German and Adams paced the one-two scoring punch. Both had 18 points. Adams, who sat out most of the first half with foul problems, scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half. German made three treys and canned 7-of-9 free throws. She also grabbed six rebounds.
But it was defense and rebounding that carried Lee into the final four. Rowe praised the effort of senior Mary Jackson, who had 11 rebounds to go along with six points. "It was an entire team effort. All our post players were outstanding (Adams, Myriah Iles, Karley Miller). We out-rebounded the tallest team in the tournament (46-35) and also held them to only 35 percent shooting. They all gave it the extra effort."
Rowe also pointed out that his team won despite not shooting well (33 percent). "We hit only 4-of-27 3-pointers but were still able to find a way to win. Our best shooting days are ahead of us in this tournament."
The Lady Flames defense held Oklahoma City's leading scorer Lauren Gober to only nine points. No other Star was close to double figures.
"It doesn't matter who we play on Monday, our girls will be ready," said Rowe. "I had no doubt that our girls and staff felt good about our chances today. They were well prepared and gave us the extra effort needed. We have time to rest and get ready to go on Monday. But to be honest, I would like to see these girls play again tomorrow."
Freed-Hardeman, the third Tennessee school in the semifinals, will play Westmont out of California in the other contest. None of the four have ever won the NAIA women's championship.