FRANKFORT, Ky. – Seventh-seed Bethel (Tenn.) pulled off the first upset of the 34th annual NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championships, knocking off second-seed The Master’s (Calif.), 82-67, in the Frankfort Convention Center.
The win is Bethel’s first in the national championships since 2011, and the second-straight early exit for The Master’s by losing to a lower seed.
Bethel (22-10) took an early lead and maintained it for the first 10 minutes, leading by as many as eight points, 15-7, after a 3-pointer by Tayla Foster, who leads the tournament so far with five 3s in the game. Foster went on to lead all players with 32 points and also had 10 rebounds.
The Master’s (24-9) responded with an 11-0 run to take its first lead of the game, 16-15, on a basket by Millie Rivera at the 10:01 mark of the first half. The two teams swapped leads twice more in the first half, with the Lady Mustangs pulling away from Bethel by seven until Foster hit a 3 with four seconds left to pull the Lady Wildcats within four at halftime, 41-37.
Bethel pushed ahead of The Master’s early in the second half after Kenyatta Drake was blocked twice but grabbed each offensive board to set up a third-chance basket and cut The Master’s lead to one, 41-40. Porsha Harris later used her own third-chance basket to give Bethel its first lead of the second half, 47-46, the first of five second-half lead changes.
Katie VanDyke gave Bethel its final lead with 11:35 to play, hitting a one of her four 3s in the game. Bethel then used a 9-1 run to go up and stretched its lead to double-figures on a 3-pointer by senior Alisha Gentry with 3:16 to play.
Harris and VanDyke followed Foster with 14 and 12 points respectively, to secure most of Bethel’s offense. Harris led all players with 15 rebounds and Drake had 11.
The Master’s was paced by Jacquelyn Marshall’s 20 points, eight rebounds and six blocks, while Megan Lindsley also scored in double figures with 12 points.
The Wildcats sealed the win, hitting 6-of-8 free throws in the final 1:30 to advance to the second round, where it will meet three-seed and first-time qualifier Baker (Kan.). The two will open the second round Friday at 9 a.m. EDT.