The Westminster (Utah) Griffins rose from the ashes (a 33-27 halftime deficit) to down the St. Catharine College Patriots 69-55 in the first round of the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship Thursday afternoon in the Frankfort Convention Center. Westminster (28-3) went on to defeat Faulkner (Ala.) in a second round game and will meet No. 1 seed Westmont (Calif.) in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
The Griffins led by as many as nine points, 17-8, in the first half before Janae Howard sparked a 13-4 St. Catharine run with seven-straight points to tie the game at 21 with 6:52 remaining before the break. Westminster's cold streak continued with Tia Pappas' 2-pointer at 6:26 acting as the Griffins last field goal of the half. The drought allowed the Patriots to grow a 34-27 halftime lead.
Howard finished the opening period with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including a pair of 3-point baskets. She also added seven rebounds and one block in the opening period. As a team, the Patriots shot 38.7 percent (12-of-31), while Westminster was limited to only 31 percent.
But Westminster shook off the rust in the second half, exploding for 42 points on 15-of-30 shooting. Brooke Larson, who was held scoreless in the opening half, sparked the effort with a 3-pointer on the half's opening possession. She would go on to score a team-high 10 second half points.
The Griffins increased their lead to as much as 16, 67-51, on a pair of Larson free throws late in the half. St. Catharine's offense shut down during the period, converting only 29 percent of its shots, including a 16.7 percent effort from 3-point range.
Westminster ended the game shooting 40.7 percent from the field and 88.2 percent (15-of-17) at the charity stripe. The Patriots (19-12)shot 34 percent from the field and were 9-15 (60 percent) at the foul line.
Howard led all scorers with 25 points, while also grabbing 11 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season. Reilly Poirier and Machera Calhoun were also in double figures for the Patriots with 11 points each.