Columbus, OH - The No. 6 Virginia Union University women's basketball team advances to the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championship game with an 86-81 victory over No. 2 California Baptist University on Wednesday evening. The Lady Panthers will face No. 1 Ashland University on Friday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. EDT at Alumni Hall in Columbus, Ohio for the national championship title. The game will air live on CBS Sports Network.
The Lady Panthers' head coach AnnMarie Gilbert has used the word resilient to describe this year's team and their hard work and determination has paid off.
"We tried to sub and keep our kids fresh to keep pressure on their shooters, thinking they'd [California Baptist] run out of gas. Again, it was a resilient defense. Our defense didn't kick in until the second half, but we always know it's going to kick in," said Gilbert during Virginia Union's post-game press conference. "Lady Walker and Ashley Smith are two seniors who are very resilient, representing the CIAA and Virginia Union University in first-class fashion,."
In Wednesday evening's semifinals game, Ashley Smith scored a game-high 28 points, followed by fellow senior teammate Lady Walker, who scored 18 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. Alexis Johnson also played a great game, scoring 20 points with nine rebounds.
Cal. Baptist led the majority of the game, but the Panthers closed the game on a 10-2 run. With just under three minutes remaining, Johnson tied the game at 76-76. The Lancers answered with a 3-pointer, but Smith followed with a layup. The Lancers retaliated with yet another 3-pointer, but Smith followed with a layup before Johnson hit a jumper to give Union an 80-79 lead. The combination of free throws and layups between Rejoice Spivey, Johnson, Smith, and Walker in the final minutes of the game sealed the Lady Panthers victorious fate.
"[We] brought the defense. At halftime, I turned to my team and said, 'We've played some zone and we've played some man, none of it seems to be working, what would you like to do?' and Lady Walker said, 'Coach, I think we should stay zone'. That was the right call," said Gilbert.
The Lady Panthers are looking to secure the second women's basketball national championship in school history after winning the 1983 national title.
For more information about the CIAA and Virginia Union University women's basketball, visit www.theciaa.com or follow the conference on Facebook (The CIAA), Twitter (@CIAAForLife), and Instagram (@CIAASports).