Lubbock Christian escapes Alaska-Anchorage to claim DII Championship

Kelsey Hoppel scores inside. Photo by Robert L. Franklin.
Kelsey Hoppel scores inside. Photo by Robert L. Franklin.

Indianapolis, Ind. – Lubbock Christian got past Alaska-Anchorage, 78-73 Monday to take the NCAA Division II Women’s National Championship. This year is the first time all three divisions have played title games at one location.


It was the Chaparral’s first championship and the end of a perfect 35-0 season. Even more eye-popping was the fact that they won the title in their first year of NCAA eligibility after completing the transition from the NAIA.
 
“I’m so incredibly excited,” junior guard Hannah Harbin said. “I’ve got a headache from screaming.”
 
The Seawolves had the perfect game plan in the first period by slowing the tempo down and setting up their half court sets. But LCU controlled the game, only falling behind for 37 seconds in the first before regaining the lead and holding on for the rest of the game.
Alaska rallied a few times, but could never catch up.
 
”You see that a lot – (big) losses usually are because the other team at some point in the game, they accept to lose,” Seawolves coach Ryan McCarthy said. “This team never did it.”
 
Nicole Hampton put up a shot for Lubbock Christian. Photo by Robert L. Franklin.
Nicole Hampton put up a shot for Lubbock Christian. Photo by Robert L. Franklin.

Alaska won the rebounding battle, 47-30, but committed 24 turnovers. They also ran into foul trouble early as junior Kiki Robertson fouled out and senior Adriana Dent committed four fouls.

 
“That wasn’t something we normally do and it just happened that way tonight,” senior Jenna Buchanan said.
 
In the fourth quarter, the Seawolves came back and cut a 14-point deficit to four points, but could not figure out the Chaps, who had three crucial steals in the final 2:07.
 
“Every time we’d go on a run, something would happen, miss a free throw or miss an easy bunny inside,” McCarthy said.
 
LCU coach Steve Gomez, in his first NCAA Championship game, was very emotional on the podium talking about his players, joking that he needs tissues when he thinks about his seniors graduating.
 
“I appreciate these seniors. I appreciate the freshmen that didn’t even get in the game,” he said. “We had 15 kids committed to each other. And, you know, it doesn’t always happen this way, but this year it did.”
 
Haley Fowler avoids being blocked. Photo by Robert L. Franklin.
Haley Fowler avoids being blocked. Photo by Robert L. Franklin.

Senior guard Nicole Hampton was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2016 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball All-Tournament Team. She finished the national championship game with 22 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and seven steals. Hampton and fellow senior Kelsey Hoppel both redshirted last year so they could play in their team’s first year of postseason NCAA eligibility.

 
“That was a good call by Coach Gomez,” Hampton said. “But, you know, there’s literally no better way to end your career, your basketball career, especially getting to play under this guy right here.”
Hoppel agreed.
 
“It’s definitely a blessing for it all to work out this way,” said Hoppel, who finished with 27 points, two rebounds and three assists.
 
LCU is only the third team to ever win a DII championship with an undefeated record. When asked about the achievement, Gomez said all his team did was focus and try their best.
 
“People talk about overachieving. That’s impossible,” he said. “All you can do is do the best you can do, and this team did it. They did the best they could.”
 
LCU coach Steve Gomez was emotional after the win. Photo by Robert L. Franklin.
LCU coach Steve Gomez was emotional after the win. Photo by Robert L. Franklin.

The best was a national championship and starting a new legacy for the program.

 
“Yeah, I hope we built a foundation to start off DII for Lubbock Christian,” Hampton said. “And there’s no better way to get these girls going into the next DII than the national championship, but I have full faith they’ll pick it back up in the coming years.”

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