CHICAGO – For the second time in three seasons, the Olivet Nazarene University women’s basketball team has claimed the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship after defeating No. 19-ranked Saint Xavier University 102-93 inside the Shannon Center on Monday night.
The first quarter started with both teams trading the first 20 points. Kennedy Johnson dropped four and Olivia Demosthenes hit a three for Olivet Nazarene, while Saint Xavier marked two three-pointers during that stretch. The rest of the quarter was highly contested as neither team could distance themselves from one another until the Cougars went on an unanswered 10-point run to gain a 29-22 lead at the stop.
Saint Xavier was not done, however. The Cougars netted ten more points to start the second quarter, making for an overall 20-0 run and a 39-22 lead for the hosts.
Karina Smits and Molly Ream brought the Tigers back to life with back-to-back three pointers. Then, after a Saint Xavier field goal, Olivet Nazarene got the three-ball working again as Avery Curry sparked a 10-0 run with her trey to get the Tigers within 41-38. That separation would remain at the break with Saint Xavier clinging to a 55-52 lead.
The Tigers started the third quarter marking three-pointers by Demosthenes and Smits to grab the lead, but the Cougars answered with 11 of the next 13 points to pull ahead 69-63. Like the first two quarters, Saint Xavier maintained the lead after three quarters, heading into the final stanza with a slight 74-72 advantage.
With just over four minutes remaining, nothing was settled with the two teams still deadlocked at 84-all. Olivet Nazarene finally broke free with 11 of the next 13 points over a three-minute span and Saint Xavier could never recover. Thirteen of ONU’s final 17 points came at the free throw line, where they missed only one attempt. For the game, the Tigers were 21-of-23.
Johnson led al scorers with 24 points and eight assists, while Zanna Myers added 14 points for the winners. Meg Knutson totaled 18 points for SXU with Sydney Lovitsch netting another 15.
Caroline Boehne led the Tigers with 14 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass.
Both Olivet Nazarene (17-3) and Saint Xavier (16-3) now have to wait three days before finding out their next opponent in the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round. The Selection Show will air on Thursday, March 4 at 6 p.m. CST live on the NAIA Facebook Page.