Frankfort, Ky. - After trailing 45-32 at halftime, Avila (21-10) came soaring back to send the game into overtime and claimed a 84-82 upset victory over the #1-seeded Freed-Hardeman (28-6) in double overtime.
Cassie Bruner led the Eagles with 20 points and was the only player in the contest to register a double-double as she also collected 11 rebounds. The win is the first-ever in the national tournament for the women's basketball program while the loss marks the first time the Lions have bowed out of the national tournament in the first round since 1998. The Lions have reached the national tournament for the last 18 consecutive seasons.
While the Eagles trailed by 13 at the half, they shot an impressive 45% from the field and went one for two beyond the arc. The difference maker in the half was the Lions three point shooting as they went four for seven from beyond the arc while Natalie Shumpert led all scorers with 15 points in the half.
The Eagles opened the second half on a 18-9 run in the first 6:34 as a Torie Murillo basket at the 13:26 mark cut the Lions lead to just four points (54-40). The two teams traded baskets in the final 10 minutes of player, and eventually Torie Murillo hit two crucial free throws that tied the game at 66-66 with 3:21 to play. Natalie Shumpert would follow with a basket of her own as the Lions reclaimed a two-point lead. Cassie Bruner's field goal courtesy of a Jackie Wacha assist with thirty seconds to play took the two teams to overtime with the score tied at 68-68.
The Eagles turned to their post play in the first overtime as Rebekah Capeder and Cassie Bruner combined for six of Avila's eight points. Natalie Shumpert scored all eight of the Lions' points in the first extra period. Torie Murillo had a shot at the buzzer to win the game, but found iron as the teams went in to a second overtime with the score tied at 76-76
In similar fashion to the first overtime, the Eagles jumped out to a quick two-point lead thanks in part to a Cassie Bruner basket. The Eagles claimed the upset from the free throw line as the Eagles went 4 for 6 from the line including two free throws from Murillo that stretched the lead to 84-81 with 10 seconds remaining. After fouling Natalie Shumpert on the Lions' final possession, Shumpert connected on the first free throw. After an intentional miss on the second, Hayley Newby had a chance to send the game to a third overtime but her shot rimmed out and gave the Eagles the first victory for any Heart of America Athletic Conference team at the NAIA Division I tournament.
Rebekah Capeder (19 points), Torie Murillo (19 points), and Brittany Townsend (11 points) joined Bruner with double digit scoring while Capeder was one rebound away from a double-double. The Eagles outrebounded FHU 52-42 while Avila grabbed an impressive 21 offensive rebounds. Torrie Murillo grabbed six steals in the contest as she played 49 of the contests 50 minutes.
Natalie Shumpert led all scorers with 32 points. Ashley Tate and Hannah Parsley both had 15 points in the contest while Maria Bagwell had 10 points and a team high nine rebounds.
The Eagles will face the #5 seed Georgetown (Ky.) in the round of sixteen Friday at 3:30PM (CDT). Georgetown (22-9) upset fourth-seeded Vanguard (23-7) 70-68 as Dev King hit two free throws with three seconds remaining.