Lady Bulldogs make third straight NAIA title game, fall to Azusa Pacific

Kayla Bryant (No. 21), senior, and Lavanda Ross (No. 53), junior, return to the Union bench after a 65–59 loss to Azusa Pacific in the 2011 NAIA championship game. | Photo by Beth Spain

By Kendal Conner

The Union University Lady Bulldogs basketball team made their third straight appearance in the March 22 NAIA national championship game at the Oman Arena in Jackson but fell to Azusa Pacific University, 65–59.

The Lady Bulldogs faced their repeat opponent, Azusa’s Lady Cougars, from last year’s title game. Union won the 2010 NAIA championship and was vying for three consecutive titles in this year’s contest.

Earlier in the season, Azusa Pacific and Union faced each other in the Rotary Classic in Jackson with the Lady Bulldogs earning an 11-point win. However, the Lady Cougars’ head coach T.J. Hardeman said in an interview with CBS that his players have been preparing all year for this specific match-up — facing the Lady Bulldogs in the title game.

Entering the game with a 35–1 season record, the Lady Bulldogs came out strong looking to gain head coach Mark Campbell his 400th career win and claim a third-straight NAIA title.

Seniors Kayla Hudson and Kayla Bryant lead the Lady Bulldogs from the beginning, hitting two critical 3-point shots apiece within the first five minutes. Senior Sarah Chan also played a fundamental role, giving Union a 5-point lead, 32-27, at the half. The Lady Bulldogs were five-for-five from the free-throw line in the first half with Bryant ranking as the lead scorer.

However, the Azusa Lady Cougars hit the court for the second half with power and passion. Junior Eboni Sadler and senior Alex Moore-Porter led in scoring for the Lady Cougars, playing imperative roles in the team’s impressive comeback.

Azusa Pacific used a double-team defense on Union’s Chan during the second half. Both teams fought to maintain the shifting lead. With two minutes left on the clock, the game was tied at 55.

The hard-fought title game came down to the last two minutes with the Lady Cougars pulling out a 6-point victory over the Lady Bulldogs.

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