Westmont tops Lee for NAIA national championship - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Westmont tops Lee for NAIA national championship

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WRCB/NAIA) -- Marty Rowe didn't care about the result.

The Lee University coach just truly enjoyed the ride.

He had just watched Tugce Canitez score 25 points and added 20 rebounds to help Westmont beat his Lady Flames 71-65 to win the NAIA national championship, but he had never been prouder of his team.

"Why do I still feel like the luckiest coach in the world? Can't quit smiling about how my team battled from start to finish!" Rowe said through his Twitter account shortly after Lee's final NAIA game.

The Lady Flames set a new single-season program record for wins, finishing as national runners-up at 34-3 overall and giving them momentum for their jump to the NCAA Division II level next year.

The team will lose four seniors, but leading scorers Hollie German and Jenna Adams will both return.

"We left the NAIA exactly how we wanted to, with the exception of winning this game," Rowe said. "We simply got beat by a good basketball team tonight."

German was named an NAIA All-American last week and certainly played like one on the game's biggest stage. The Polk County High School graduate scored 12 of Lee's first 16 points and finished with a game-high 27 points. She finished 10-of-24 from the field and 4-of-9 from 3-point range, adding a steal and three assists.

After leading by as many as eight points in the first half, German had to hit a runner in the closing seconds to pull Lee within 34-30 at the break. Westmont threatened to pull away twice in the second half, only to see German rally the Lady Flames each time.

Westmont opened a 55-48 advantage on Celina Gougis' basket with 9:58 to play, but Lee ripped off seven straight points to pull even just more than a minute later. Julia Zimmerman hit a 3-pointer and German followed with a jumper before assistant Brooke Hamby on a beautiful give-and-go in transition that notted the game at 55-all with 8:23 left.

The Warriors surged again with a 13-2 run to open the game's largest lead at 68-57 with 4:44 to go, but Adams scored five straight and German hit a 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 run that go the Lady Flames back within 68-65 with 32 seconds left.

But Canitez wouldn't let her team lose. The native of Turkey hit one of two free throws for a four-point advantage, then blocked German's 3-point attempt and scored the game's final points on a run-out layup to seal the Warriors' six-point win.

"They played really well," said Rowe. "Westmont executed their game plan really well and we couldn't find answers for their two big girls down low. They were hard to guard and they got position on us most of the night down in the lane.

"I thought we played hard, but they are the best offensive team we played during the entire tournament."

Adams, a McMinn Central product, added 19 points and seven rebounds, but battled foul trouble. Her absence at times helped Westmont own a 45-27 rebounding edge that included a whopping 16 offensive rebounds.

Kelsie Sampson also scored 25 points for Westmont, and Esther Lee added 12.

"I'm extremely happy for our seniors. I think people really appreciate the hard work our team put in over this run," said Rowe. "Setting a new school record for number of victories and reaching the NAIA final for the first time is something our team can always be very proud of.

"From where we started at the beginning of the season to this point, I'm pleased with this club and what we accomplished. We are ready for the next step next year."

2013 NAIA All-Tournament Team

First Team
Natalie Schumpert, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)
Hollie German, Lee (Tenn.)
Jenna Adams, Lee (Tenn.)

Nicole Ballestero, Vanguard (Calif.)
Esther Lee, Westmont (Calif.)

Second Team
Jessica Pace, Cumberland (Tenn.)
Kelsey Canavan, Lubbock Christian (Texas)
Nicole Hampton, Lubbock Christian (Texas)
Lauren Gober, Oklahoma City
Cydney Tibbitts, Westminster (Utah)

Championship Most Valuable Player
Tugce Canitez, Wesmont (Calif.)

NAIA Hustle Award
Maria Bagwell, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)

Coach of the Year
Kirsten Moore, Wesmont (Calif.)

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