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Golden Eagles’ season ends in NAIA Round of 32

Team was one win shy of advancing to Sioux City, Iowa by JBU Sports Information | March 15, 2023 at 9:35 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Parker Waters John Brown guard Natalie Smith (No. 30) launches a 3-point shot in the Golden Eagles' NAIA National Tournament Second Round game against Cumberlands (Ky.) on Wednesday. Cumberlands defeated JBU 75-67 to end the Golden Eagles' season at 21-10 overall.

NEW ORLEANS -- A red-hot first quarter and a halftime lead wouldn't hold as the John Brown University women's basketball team's season finished in the NAIA National Championships Round of 32 with a 75-67 loss to No. 21 Cumberlands (Ky.) on Wednesday, March 8, inside the University Sports Complex.

Senior Tarrah Stephens produced a game-high 23 points -- scoring 10 of 12 chances from the free-throw line -- but the Patriots (24-7) used a 39-24 rebounding advantage and free-throw shooting to ultimately end the Golden Eagles' season one game shy of Sioux City. The team finished with a record of 21-10, including a 68-65 win over first-round host Loyola (La.) on March 7.

"Very proud of the ladies this year," said JBU coach Jeff Soderquist. "We had some ups and downs but they kept fighting. Made a great run the last half of conference season to get us in a place to make the national tournament. To go out and beat the ninth-ranked team (Loyola) in the nation on their floor in the first round was huge."

After Cumberlands shot out to a quick 4-0 lead, for the second consecutive night John Brown stemmed the early deficit in its infancy, this time by retaliating with a 12-0 run to take a commanding 12-4 lead. Triples from Stephens and junior Natalie Smith jump-started the run. Smith's second triple of the quarter and another trey from sophomore Emily Sanders on the final possession maintained JBU's seven-point lead after 10 minutes of play.

The Patriots whittled some points back early in the second with a 7-3 run but Sanders and Smith again provided three-pointers down the stretch to keep John Brown on top at the break, 33-31.

Similar to the Round of 64 matchup with No. 9 Loyola (La.), the Golden Eagles struggled in the early portions of the third quarter as UCKY rallied on a 12-2 run that saw John Brown come up empty in nine of its first 10 possessions of the half. Despite the run, sophomore Graci Harris and junior Bella Irlenborn came off the bench to provide two key triples, halting the run and bridging the margin to just four, 47-43, entering the final quarter.

Cumberlands, similar to the third, opened up with a 14-2 run that was highlighted by three consecutive triples to open a game-high 16-point lead. Still with just over five minutes to play, the Golden Eagles poured in 22 points in the latter half of the fourth, courtesy of eight points from Stephens and Harris, respectively, but the Patriots could not miss from the charity stripe to offer JBU a chance for a furious comeback.

For a team that shoots 71 percent at the line this season, Cumberlands went a perfect 14 of 14 in the fourth quarter alone.

The team scored the same number of field goals (22) and John Brown hit four more triples (8-4) and turned the ball over six fewer times (20-14) but Cumberlands used 15 offensive rebounds to produce 19 second-chance points and finished the evening 23-of-27 (85 percent) at the foul line.

Harris had herself another double-digit scoring effort by tallying another 13 points -- and added four assists -- to total 26 points, five assists and an 11 of 15 (73 percent) shooting mark through two games in the national tournament.

Smith hit four of six triples attempted to finish with 12 points.

Kassie Monday led four Patriots in double-figure scoring at 16 points and five assists. Destiny Haworth added 15, on five triples, while Lakin Burke produced 13 points and Channing Lewis finished with 10.

The Golden Eagles completed the 2022-23 season by advancing in the NAIA National Championships for the third time in program history – just the second time since 2017 – and produced a perfect 6-0 nonconference record and recorded a pair of top-25 victories.

John Brown 68, Loyola 65

What was once a 15-point lead in the third quarter was whittled to a one possession game but the Golden Eagle defense limited the Wolf Pack to 1 of 8 shooting from the field in the final three minutes as the John Brown University women's basketball team upset No. 9 Loyola (La.) by a 68-65 margin in the NAIA National Championships First Round on Tuesday, March 7, inside the University Sports Complex.

Two key triples from seniors Lisa Vanoverberghe and later with 57 seconds remaining from Tarrah Stephens prevented the fourth-seeded Loyola (27-3) from ever completing its comeback bid, advancing the Golden Eagles into the Second Round while ending the Wolf Pack's 43-game winning streak -- dating back to 2019 -- inside "The Den."

Stephens' triple from the left arc put the Golden Eagles up 67-63 but despite a late Loyola putback on its third attempt with 19 seconds remaining, there was still a bit of drama left.

John Brown was forced into a turnover off the inbounds after a timeout, giving the hosts possession, 12 seconds and a half court to work with. Despite allowing an extra chance, junior Bella Irlenborn held her ground in the deep post and forced Loyola's leading scorer, Sandra Cannady, to lob a shot from under the bucket that caught the underside of the rim while Irlenborn collected the rebound to secure the win.

Stephens then split a pair at the line with less than a second remaining.

Earlier, JBU survived a pair of second-half runs from the Wolf Pack after relegating the Loyola offense to just six field goals (24 percent) in the first half.

Boasting a 12-point lead at the intermission, junior Natalie Smith extended the margin to 15 (the largest lead of the night), 36-21, with a triple on the opening possession of the third quarter, but then the Wolf Pack made its move. Over the next 3:14 of the quarter, Loyola shot 6-of-6 from the floor and rallied on a 15-2 run to pull within two points. John Brown again responded with a run.

Over the final 5:23 of the third quarter, senior Maddie Altman, Smith and freshman Graci Harris poured in triples while Stephens and Irlenborn added buckets down low to finish the period on a 14-7 rally to rebuild the nine-point lead.

Irlenborn scored four points in the early fourth and sophomore Emily Sanders hit a triple to help maintain the nine-point growing chasm between the teams. Then, with 5:24 left in the game, Loyola made its move with a quick 8-0 run, which JBU then thwarted with Vanoverberghe's triple at the right arc as the shot clock expired.

Although opening the contest 1 of 5 from the floor, the Golden Eagles withstood a 7-2 deficit and used a Vanoverberghe old-fashioned three-point play to jump-start a quarter-ending 11-5 run.

Harris gave John Brown multiple heroic lifts off the bench in the first half by shooting 5 of 5 from the floor in the first 20 minutes of play -- including five points during JBU's 10-4 run that opened the lopsided second quarter that featured the visitors holding a 20-9 scoring advantage.

Stephens finished with 15 points in spite of being forced to sit the majority of the fourth quarter in foul trouble. The senior shot 6 of 12 from the field, dished out four assists and posted a pair of blocks in the first half that set the defensive tone in a hostile environment.

Vanoverberghe scored four field goals, finishing with 11 points to round out John Brown's double-digit scorers, while Sanders and Smith each produced nine points apiece – nearly giving JBU five with over 10 points.

Neither team shot the long ball well in the first half, combining to score 2-of-19. Then, in the second half, John Brown found its stride and sank 7-of-14 (50 percent) while the Wolf Pack hit six of its 12 triples attempted.

Thanks to Irlenborn (8 points) and Harris, the Golden Eagle bench produced 31 percent of the total points scored.

Loyola entered the contest averaging north of 16 offensive rebounds a game, seventh-most in the nation, but the Golden Eagles held Loyola to four second-chance possessions in the first half and just 12 throughout the contest, leaving the hosts with a below-average 35 percent offensive rebounding efficiency. In fact, John Brown finished the evening with a 35-31 rebounding advantage, nearly equaling the hosts in second-chance points (13-12).

Loyola shot 53 percent in the second half, but the John Brown defensive effort in the first half kept the hosts to 40 percent (23 of 57), below its season average. JBU, meanwhile, assisted on 21 of its 26 field goals and shot 49 percent (26 of 53) -- six points above its season average.

Cannady's 24 points led four Wolf Pack players in double-figure scoring. The hosts were unable to produce a single point off the bench in the first half.

John Brown is now 2-0 all time versus Loyola, with both contests coming in the NAIA National Championships. The Golden Eagles dispatched Loyola in the national quarterfinals in 2014.

  photo  Photo courtesy of Parker Waters John Brown's Tarrah Stephens drives by a Loyola (La.) defender during the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round game on Tuesday. JBU upset No. 9-ranked Loyola 68-65 on Loyola's home floor in New Orleans.

Print Headline: Golden Eagles’ season ends in NAIA Round of 32


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