INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – Langston University nearly let a 15-point halftime lead slip through its fingers, but found the late momentum to hold-off a late charge in the opener of the 2015 NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship Wednesday.
The Lions shot just under 56 percent in the first half and grabbed an 80-71 victory over the No. 6-seeded Pikeville (Ky.) to move-on to the round of 16.
Langston jumped-out to a quick 7-0 lead and pushed the pace of play throughout. Lion forward Lynette Holmes posted five of the seven points with a three-pointer and two free throws. The senior finished the half with 11 points and went 5-12 from the floor in the game.
Pikeville made a strong effort to keep pace in the early going. Down 9-2, the Bears battled back cut the deficit to two at 10-8, as Kaliliah Quigley drained a three to keep it close early.
The Bears got back to within three with 7:32 remaining in the first half, but from that point forward, the shooting went cold and the Lion offense took full advantage. Langston went on a 16-6 run and pulled away as the first-half concluded with a 15-point, 45-30 lead, after the opening 20 minutes.
Pikeville made another go of it in the second half and looked to dig out of the hole. With just over 11 minutes remaining, Devin Conley pulled-up for a three-pointer to get the Bears back to within 10, but the Lions responded. Lulu Perry answered with a fade-away jumper on the other end and extended the lead back out to 12.
Just as the Lions seemed to have an answer for every Pikeville advance, however, the Bears came back in the final minutes.
Pikeville put together a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to 72-69, but were unable to overcome a hot Langston squad.
The Lions shot just over 46 percent in the game and had four finish in double-digits. T’Keya Mason led that group with 19 points, 11 of which came in the first half.
Morgan Lee was very strong in the opening game as well. The Langston center finished with the Championship’s first double-double as the senior posted 14 points and 10 boards.
On the other side, Pikeville shot 34 percent in the contest and was led by Kalilah Quigley. The senior forward came just one rebound shy of a double-double as she finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.
With the victory, Langston will move-on to play the winner of No. 2-seed Loyola (La.) and No. 7-seed Great Falls (Mont.) on Friday.