MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.-- When the going got tough, the Rams got their offense going. Saturday afternoon North Central University women's basketball was in a fight to keep their season alive in the NCCAA region championship game against top seed and defending champion Trinity Bible College.
After falling behind by double figures in the first half North Central (10-17) rallied to trim the deficit to just three at the break. Then in a back and forth second half the Rams turned up their effort by firing over 50 percent from the floor to earn a 68-64 victory over top seeded Trinity Bible College (Ellendale, N.D.) to earn the NCCAA Regional Championship.
The Rams fell behind by as many as 11 points in the first half. With just over five minutes remaining in the opening half, NCU trailed Trinity 27-16. But a key 11-3 run got the Rams to within 30-27 at halftime.
Trinity Bible had defeated NCU earlier in the season in Ellendale and had upset the Rams in the region championship in 2012. So it came as no surprise that the Lions were not going to go down without a fight. The two teams battled to a 36-36 tie five minutes into the second half before NCU took their first lead of the game on a lay-up from senior Heidee Kollenda (Menominee, Mich./Menominee) with 14:18 remaining.
North Central would lead by as many as 12 points when junior Jorie Grenell (Lakeville, Minn./Spring Lake Park) hit a three point shot that made the score 60-48 with 6:28 left in the game. But Trinity roared back to seize the lead once again. A Lions steal and lay-up with 1:07 remaining gave TBC a 64-63 advantage. After the Lions missed a three point attempt their next possession freshman Jamie High (Buffalo, Minn./Buffalo) got an offensive rebound off her own miss and put it in to give NCU a 65-64 lead with just 32 seconds left.
Potentially the biggest play of the game came when junior Emily Aleckson (Braham, Minn./Cambridge Christian) blocked a lay-up attempt by Trinity's region MVP Treva Nutter (Thedford, Neb.) that preserved the Rams narrow lead wity 21 ticks remaining. Aleckson collected a defensive rebound and the Lions were forced to foul with 12 seconds left.
With eight seconds left Jorie Grenell connected on a pair of free throws that made the score 67-64. The Lions missed a pair of free throws with four seconds left and then had to foul with a second remaining. Jamie High was 1-2 at the line to equal the 68-64 final score.
NCU was led by Jorie Grenell who scored 20 points and handed out 4 assists. Junior Julia Skeesick (Victoria, Minn./Chaska) added 14 points and 6 assists. Emily Aleckson recorded a crucial double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds without committing a personal foul.
In the final home game of her NCU career senior Elisabeth Trickey (Waseca, Minn./Waseca) added seven points and seven rebounds. Jamie High also had seven points and seven rebounds.
Following the game the NCCAA Divison II North Central All-Region awards were announced. Elisabeth Trickey and Jorie Grenell each received first team all-region awards. Julia Skeesick and Jamie High were named to the all-region second team.
The Rams victory gives them an automatic berth in the 2013 NCCAA Women's Basketball National Tournament on March 7-9 hosted by Ohio Christian University (Circleville, Ohio). NCU will open the national tournament as the eight seed and will face the top national seed Maranatha Baptist Bible College (Watertown, Wis.) on March 7 at 2 p.m.