INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – No. 6-seed UPIKE keeps making history as the Bears knocked off No. 5-seed Great Falls (Mont.) 75-68 in the quarterfinals of the NAIA National Tournament in the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
UPIKE, which hadn’t won a game in three previous trips to the tournament, advanced to face second-seeded MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) on Monday night.
Prior to UPIKE (26-8) punching its ticket, as well as fellow six seed Baker (Kan.) earlier in the day, the last No. 6-seed to make the semifinals was Shawnee State in 2011.
“Obviously, I’m ecstatic to be among the last four,” said third year UPIKE head coach Joanna McNamee. “I always say this is a player’s game and I give them all the credit, as coaches we just try to prepare them the best we can. My staff has been amazing putting in the work to get these ladies in position to win. I thought it was a sloppy, back-and-forth game, but we had some players step up, it feels great.”
Kandice Porter was as good as she’s been all season, pouring in a season-high 23 points, one off her career best, on 8-of-11 shooting and a 7-for-9 showing from the stripe. The junior added five rebounds, including three on the offensive glass.
Kelah Eldridge joined her in double figures with 19 points, scoring 14 of them in the second half.
The first half was as back-and-forth as it gets as neither side claimed more than a seven-point lead. Great Falls (24-11) was opened strong with a 13-7 lead, but UPIKE didn’t stay down for long. The Bears scored the final eight points of the quarter to grab their first lead since it was 2-0 at 15-13.
Including the end of the first quarter, the Bears ended up pushing their run to 15-3 in the second to take a 22-16 lead. Aundrea Matchen closed the stretch with a put-back jumper off a Prisha Rogers’ miss.
The Argos hung around though, getting a basket near the halftime buzzer to make it 35-33 in favor of UPIKE at the half.
It stayed tight in the second half until the Bears sprung a 6-0 run over the final minute and a half of the third quarter to push their lead to nine. Ten points ended up being their biggest advantage the rest of the way, reaching it twice, including at 62-52 at the latest with just minutes remaining.
UPIKE shot 38.4 percent from the field and made 15 of their 19 free-throw attempts. The Bears also controlled the glass 47-36 while limiting the Argos to just a 39 percent showing from the field.
Stephanie McDonagh paced Great Falls with 22 points, while Erin Legel chipped in with 15.