For the fourth time in program history, the Lady Lion team, coached by Dale Neal, advanced to the NAIA’s Fab Four in the national tournament. For the third time, they lost to the eventual national champions.
FHU defeated West Virginia Institute of Technology, 82-48, in the opening round of tournament play. They followed that with a 71-52 victory over Campbellsville University and 60-49 win over Vanguard University to move to the semi-finals.
FHU faced the Westmont Warriors, led by Tugce Canitez, national WBCA and NAIA Player of the Year, in the semi-final game and led most of the first half. At that point, Westmont’s Esther Lee scored eight consecutive points to give them a 29-23 lead with a little over a minute to go in the first half. FHU’s Ashley Tate nailed a three-pointer to bring the Lady Lions within three.
FHU’s struggles continued in the second half. On two occasions, they pulled within two points only to have the Warriors pull ahead again. The 59-49 loss ended the best season in program history as the Lady Lions finished the season with a 34-2 record.
Senior point guard Natalie Shumpert became only the third player in FHU basketball history to be a three-time NAIA All-American selection. Ashley Tate, a senior from Memphis, was named a third-team All-American, and Maria Bagwell, also a senior and winner of FHU’s Heart of a Lion Award, was on the honorable mention list.
Shumpert averaged 16.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. She ended her career with 2,055 points, making her the fourth-leading scorer in school history. Tate, named the TranSouth Best Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 9.4 points, 4.1 assists and 2.0 steals in her second year with the program. Bagwell averaged 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in her final season. She is only the fourth player in program history to eclipse both 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.