Hayley Newby's putback for Freed-Hardeman as regulation time expired forced overtime and the Lady Lions outlasted Wiley College 88-86 Friday in the semifinal round of the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball tournament.
At the Frankfort Convention Center, Freed-Hardeman, the NAIA's No. 1-ranked team in the nation, advanced to its first NAIA Division I championship game in 18 appearances behind 32 points and 13 rebounds from Newby, who played the latter stages of the game on an injured ankle.
Grace Alonso de Armino scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for the Lady Lions, while teammate Taleeah Cross also chipped in 15 points for FHU.
Senior guard Kyniddia Purdy (Beaumont, Texas/Central HS) scored 27 points in the final game of her four-year Wiley College career. Purdy put the 'Cats ahead 71-69 with 4.0 seconds remaining in regulation.
Senior guard Danisha Shaw (Kenner, La./Paris JC) and Kayla Brown (Little Rock, Ark./North Little Rock) scored 18 points apiece for the Lady Wildcats, who finished one of their most memorable seasons in school history with a record of 30-5.
After trailing by as many nine points in the second half, the Lady Wildcats fought their way back in the late stages of the period with a 6-0 run between the 5:16 and four-second marks, which was capped Purdy's layup through traffic.
In danger of losing for only the second time this season, Freed-Hardeman (36-1) went for the win with a 3-pointer by Grace Alonso de Armino with time winding down. Her shot missed the mark but Newby put back in the miss to tie the game as time expired.
In the overtime frame, Cynthia Woodward's 3-pointer with 1:46 remaining proved to be a dagger for the Lady Wildcats, as it gave Freed-Hardeman an 80-76 lead. The Lions would stretch their lead to as many as seven in the final 33 seconds before a quick 3-pointer by Brown and a steal and layup by Purdy cut Wiley's deficit to 85-83 with 15 seconds to play.
The Lions would eventually stretch their lead to four in the final 10 seconds, and never saw their advantage in danger as they triumphed in a hard-fought and memorable game for both schools.
Fouls proved to be a problem for the Lady Wildcats as FHU enjoyed a 26-11 advantage in free throws attempted. And after shooting 50 percent (17-of-34) from the field in the first half, the Lady Wildcats found the iron less than friendly in the second half. While they still shot a respectable 41 percent (18 of 43) from the field, the 'Cats saw too many layups and good looks rim in and out after halftime.
The Lady Wildcats, who won the 2013 Red River Athletic Conference postseason championship, are 79-19 in three seasons under head coach Courtney Garrett-Pruitt, a standout prep star at Longview High School and more recently an assistant coach at Tyler Junior College.
Freed Hardeman will face Oklahoma City in the championship game Tuesday.