Open menu

Lady Cats Claim Continental Athletic Conference Title

Mar 03, 2024

CAC Champions

Lawrence, KS – Narrowly escaping an upset bid by Crowley’s Ridge College in the conference tournament opening round on Thursday, and leading wire to wire in the semifinal matchup with tournament host, Haskell Indian Nations University, the Lady Cats were ready to move to the Continental Conference Championship game against Florida National University. The Conquistadors had defeated the Lady Cats on January 13 in the Haskell Classic, so redemption was on the mind of the Lady Cats. By reaching the championship game, both teams had secured their spot in the NAIA National Championship Tournament opening round, but a tournament win would improve the tournament draw and bracket placement.

The Lady Cats opened the scoring with a Blythe Benefield basket and a Kayley Frank three. FNU answered with a three and the race was on. Benefield provided the initial offensive spark scoring seven of the Lady Cats first 10 points and Frank added another bucket at the 7:02 mark to give the Lady Cats a 12-6 lead. Defense would take over the next 2:31 and a free throw by FNU would be the only offense. Logan Jones broke into the scoring column with a deep three at the 4:29 mark and threes by Taylor Rush and Frank sandwiched a FNU layup. Susie Moran got on the board with 1:52 left in the opening stanza then followed with another basket to bump the lead to 25-11. Frank added four points to close out the quarter and the Lady Cats took a 29-13 lead to the quarter break.

The defense for both teams stepped up again to open the second quarter and a Taylor Rush three at the 7:53 mark would be the first scoring of the frame. Neither team could find an offensive rhythm as FNU was attempting to cut into the Lady Cat lead. A pair of FNU baskets were answered with a Benefield layup and a Taylor Rush three before the Conquistadors closed the scoring with a three of their own. In a defensive battle through the second quarter, the Lady Cats took a 38-21 advantage to the intermission.

Wanting to close the door on any possibility of a comeback, the Lady Cats knew the opening minutes of the third quarter would be important. Susie Moran set the tone with an early basket, but FNU was determined to keep fighting. The Lady Cats hit another offensive cold spell and FNU slowly chipped away at the lead. A 7-0 run cut the gap to 40-28 but the Lady Cat defense had limited the FNU attack during their offensive struggles. Susie Moran broke the silence with a pair of free throws at the 3:44 mark, then added four more points over the next 2:02. FNU battled to keep pace but a pair of Frank free throws and an Abbey Linville three closed the third quarter and gave the Lady Cats a 51-34 advantage.

FNU was regrouping for a final push and the Lady Cats needed to burn the clock and hold off the Conquistador challenges. A FNU three opened the scoring and Susie Moran provided the quick response. Logan Jones answered another FNU basket, but the Conquistadors were not going away. Abbey Linville and Susie Moran scored back-to-back layups and with 4:49 left to play, the Lady Cats were in control, 59-45. Both defenses held strong until the 2:59 mark when FNU broke through for a basket. With each challenge, the Lady Cats answered, and Jones and Moran teamed up again for the next two Lady Cat buckets. The Conquistadors were unable to put together a run and the Lady Cats used a Frank layup, and free throws by Linville and Moran to close out the scoring and claim the 67-51 championship win.

Susie Moran led the way with 19 points and 23 rebounds while Kayley Frank added a double-double of her own with 16 points and 13 boards. Blythe Benefield contributed a double-double as well with 11 points and 11 rebounds while Taylor Rush added eight points, Abbey Linville tacked on seven, and Logan Jones put six points on the board in the win.

Kayley Frank was named tournament Most Outstanding Player and Logan Jones and Susie Moran were selected as All-Tournament Team.

The Lady Cats now await the NAIA selection announcement to find out their destination and opponent for the NAIA opening round on March 15.