Frankfurt, Ky. — Frankfurt Convention Center – 32nd Annual Women’s Basketball Championship – The 13th -ranked Vanguard Lions, making their 11th straight appearance in the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, fell to No.19 Georgetown (KY) 70-68 on a pair of free-throws with three seconds remaining, ending the Lions’ season in the first round of the 32-team tournament. Vanguard had tied the game on a three-point field goal from senior captain Paige Halberg with just seven seconds left of the clock, but the Tigers from GC were able to take advantage of a foul called on the Pride and knock down both freebies to reclaim the lead. Halberg, who finished the game with a game-high 18 points, was unable to connect on a final shot at the buzzer, and the fifth-seeded Tigers advanced to the second round with the narrow win over the fourth-seeded Lions.
Junior All-GSAC forward Esther Timmermans started the game’s scoring with a field goal, but scoring was held to a minimum in the opening minutes of action. The score was tied at three as the clock approached the 13-minute mark of the first half, and remained close for the opening period of play. Tied again at 19, Georgetown scored five straight points before the Lions finished the half on a 9-5 run to pull within one at the break, trailing 29-28.
The Blue and Gold opened the second half with better execution, and the Lions claimed their biggest lead thus far in the game just three minutes into the half, after Halberg buried a shot to put Vanguard on top 40-32. VUSC continued to hold the lead for the majority of the second half, stretching the advantage to ten on a Timmermans bucket that gave the Pride a 60-50 lead with six minutes to go.
However, the pesky Georgetown squad would not go away, rallying to score the next ten points in the contest, tying the game at 60 on an old-fashioned three-point play. After Vanguard’s Ali Drennan made one of two at the charity tripe, the Tigers drained a triple to take a two-point lead. Yet VU responded, and Chelsea Alfafara nailed a triple of her own to put the Lions back in front by a point. Again Georgetown countered with a basket, but Alfafara hit one of two free-throws to tie the contest at 65 with 1:39 remaining.
The Lions got a big defensive stop on the next Tiger possession, but GC forced a jump ball moments later to reclaim possession and set up a trey for Mikkah Rogers, putting the Tigers in front by three. Vanguard Head Coach Russ Davis called a timeout with 16 ticks left on the clock, and Halberg, the fifth-year senior and only remaining member of the Lions’ 2008 National Championship team, came through in the clutch, calmly stroking the three to knot the game once more. However, the aforementioned foul call ultimately doomed VU, and Georgetown’s Dev King made both attempts to give GC the two-point lead. Halberg was able to get off a shot before time expired, but it went begging, handing the Tigers the victory.
Georgetown improved to 22-9 with the victory. The Tigers were paced by Jessica Waddle’s 15 points, 12 of them coming behind the arc.
Vanguard held GC to a 37 percent clip from the field, but the Tigers drained 10 tree-pointers in the contest. The Lions struggled at the free-throw line, making just 6-13 from the stripe, a stat which played a large role in the loss. Vanguard was also outrebounded 51-38, despite Timmermans game-high 16 boards.
In addition to her 18 points, Halberg, who played in her final game as a member of the Lions, finished with three rebounds. Timmermans pitched in 12 points to capture another double-double, while Ali Drennan and Alfafara added seven points apiece.
Vanguard, who finished tied for second in the GSAC regular season standings, ends the 2011-2012 season with an overall mark of 23-7. Gold Pride!