No. 2 seed Lee (Tenn.) University used the last second heroics of Valeriya Musina to avoid an early exit in the 29th Annual NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships. Lee defeated No. 7 seed Evangel (Mo.) University 63-62 in first round action.
Evangel took a 62-60 lead with 16 seconds left on a basket from Kara Blankenship. However, Musina provided the shot that sent the Lee players and fans into a frenzy, when she sank a layup with one second remaining while being fouled. Musina’s basket tied the game at 62-62, and her free throw put the Lady Flames up 63-62. Evangel’s half court shot as time expired was off the mark.
The Crusaders of Evangel jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, before Lee rallied to tie the game, 11-11, with 14:29 left in the half. Evangel regained the lead and held a slim advantage for most of the next nine minutes before Lee went up 27-25 with 5:07 left in the half. Lee posted a 14-4 run to take their biggest lead of the game at 41-29 with one minute left in the half. The Lady Flames entered the locker room up 41-34.
Lee held the lead in the majority of the second half until a basket by Evangel with 4:01 left to play put the Crusaders up 57-56. The teams went back-and-forth with four ties and two lead changes over the final four minutes, before time expired with Lee on top.
Lee was led by Musina and Katie Nelson with 21 points each. Allison Rader added 13 points in the win. Evangel was led by Ashlee Luko with 19 points. Blankenship and Brianna Mingus scored 16 and 14 points respectively.