FRANKFORT, Ky. — Yvonte Neal scored 36 points, including the winning field goal and two clinching free throws in the final 20 seconds, and the Oklahoma City University women’s team beat Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) 80-76 Tuesday night for its seventh NAIA championship.
Tournament MVP Kayla MacKenzie added 21 points for Oklahoma City. She went 5 for 9 from 3-point range.
MacKenzie and fellow senior Cara Pugh helped OCU to national championships in two out of the past three years.
“It's unreal,” MacKenzie said. “I can honestly say hard work pays off. Never in a million years did I think I'd be here my last game of my senior year winning this (championship) and that award (MVP). You couldn't write it any better.”
The Stars (27-4) led 61-47 midway through the second half before Freed-Hardeman (36-2) rallied to take a 70-69 lead with two minutes remaining. Neal had a three-point play with 1:39 left and the go-ahead basket with 18 seconds to go.
Brittany Montgomery and Taleeah Cross each scored 21 points for Freed-Hardeman, which made its first title-game appearance. Hayley Newby had 14 points and eight rebounds, but her potential tying shot in the final 10 seconds was off.
Neal went on to clinch the win for OCU at the foul line.
Neal also had eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and four 3-pointers.
“I just did it for my team, and mostly for the seniors,” Neal said. “We've been working hard since Day 1.”
OCU’s seventh titles tie Southern Nazarene for the most NAIA Division I women’s basketball titles.
MacKenzie became the fifth OCU player to win the NAIA Division I Tournament MVP.
“What a lot of people don't know about Kayla MacKenzie is she's playing a position she's never played before,” OCU coach Latricia Trammell said. “She started playing the point guard position in December. For her to come out here that confident from December to this point right here and lead her team to a national championship says a lot about her. She's a nursing major, and she can be my nurse any day, because I trust her with all my heart.”