By Alex Brown
Kaitlin Dudley’s prolific Union career ended fittingly with a record-breaking performance and another championship for the senior guard.
Dudley, a physical education and heath major, became Union’s all-time women’s scoring leader, adding her name to the record book and willing her team to victory in a 63–61 win over Oklahoma City University Monday.
She was named a first team NAIA All-American and also achieved NAIA All-Tournament first-team honors.
In the NAIA championship game against Azusa Pacific University, Dudley put up seven points, six assists and had five rebounds. Although she had a cold shooting night, her leadership was evident throughout the game.
In the semifinal game against Oklahoma City, Union’s hopes of advancing and Dudley’s shot at the record were in jeopardy at halftime, with the Lady Bulldogs trailing by seven and Dudley held to five points.
After the break, Dudley came out firing, pouring in 16 second-half points, including a three from absurd distance that found nothing but nylon and ignited the crowd. She followed that two minutes later with a shot in the paint that drew Union within three and gave her a tie for the all-time scoring lead. Dudley broke the record with 11:53 to go, rebounding her own miss and streaking to the basket for a put-back layup, pushing Union into a 49–48 lead.
After the game, Dudley deflected praise for the Bulldogs’ victory.
“No matter who scores the points, no matter what happens, it’s just giving your best (for the team),” Dudley said.
Dudley’s contributions were not limited to just one area of the stat sheet. In the last five minutes of the game, she blocked a three-point attempt that would have tied the game for Oklahoma City and assisted on a Sarah Chan basket that extended the lead to three. Perhaps her biggest contribution came with 51 seconds left when she found a cutting Ashley Lillard, who got into the lane and drew a foul, calmly sinking two free throws and giving Union the lead for good.
Dudley said this year’s tournament ride has been unique, and her relationships with her teammates have made it a special one.
“We’re a totally different team (this year),” Dudley said. “We’ve been through a lot (together). We’re excited to be in the championship.”
The semifinal win showed the team’s character, Dudley said, and although the Lady Bulldogs never got in rhythm offensively, she said the grind-it-out victory reflected the team’s toughness.
“It’s huge, especially being down seven points (at halftime),” Dudley said.
Before the championship win, Dudley said her goal was to go out on top.
“It would be great to win that last game and win a national championship,” Dudley said.
Having accomplished that feat, Dudley is sure to be remembered as one of Union’s all-time greats.