By Travis Morgan
Sioux City, IA - Indiana Wesleyan claimed its second national championship by defeating Davenport (Mich.), 61-43, in the Championship game of the 2013 State Farm-NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship.
Behind Tournament MVP Paige Smith, the Wildcats went on a 22-1 run late in the second half to win its second national championship. They capped the season with a 61-43 victory to raise their second banner in school history.
"It's such a great victory for our team and to see our team do something so special together that is what matters the most to me," said Tournament MVP Paige Smith. "The fact that this team came together and fought together and stayed together the entire year. That is the biggest blessing out of all of this."
Taylor Goshert got the scoring going in the first half as she hit a layup in the first minute of the contest. After that bucket the Panthers and Wildcats continued to trade buckets and at the first media time out the game was tied at six.
Both teams continued to keep the game close as neither team held a lead over two points in the first seven minutes of the contest. Tiesha Stokes gave Davenport the first lead over two points after hitting a three pointer. Stokes extended the Panthers lead to 15-10 after hitting a layup.
Davenport would extend its lead to seven points, 17-10, with nine minutes to go in the first half, as Indiana Wesleyan went five minutes without a basket. However, after they broke the scoreless drought, Claire Ray hit a three pointer to put the Wildcats down two, 17-15.
With the game tied at 21, Shaina Johnson scored on a layup to put the Panthers ahead by two with two minutes left in the first half. This happened to be the last field goal and points of the first half and Davenport took a two point lead into halftime, 23-21.
The second half started like the first half as both teams started trading baskets. During the first eight minutes of the second half, the Panthers and the Wildcats saw four lead changes and three ties.
After Paige Smith hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 34, the Wildcats clicked the offense and defense into gear. After falling down by two points to Davenport with 11:51 to go in the game, the Panthers did not make a field goal for the next 11 minutes and 24 seconds.
During this stretch the Wildcats went on a 22-1 during an eight minute stretch. Indiana Wesleyan found themselves down two, 36-34, before the run and ended the run leading the Panthers by 19 points, 56-37.
The Panthers continued to score only from the free throw line, and could not get any closer than 17 points for the remainder of the game. Davenport finally broke their field goal drought after Staci Stadler hit a three-pointer, to break an 11 minute and 24 second field goal drought.
"I can't say enough about Paige and Claire," said coach Brooks. "Claire did an amazing job on Karli Harris tonight. She just shut her down. Those two seniors have been our inspiration and leaders all year on the floor and off the floor. If you want to have a team like this you need seniors that step up and take responsibility and those two did."
Taylor Goshert led the Wildcats with 15 points, while Claire Ray and Paige Smith followed with 14 points apiece. Tiesha Stokes led the Panthers with 12 points off the bench.
The Panthers lost its second national championship game in three years and are still looking for its first national championship. The loss for Davenport snapped the team's streak of 11-straight wins.