The Freed-Hardeman Lady Lions kept their spot atop the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Coaches’ Poll in the season's final rating and now know who their first-round opponent will be in next week's national tournament.
FHU (31-1) will face West Virginia Tech Wednesday, March 13, at 5:45 p.m. at the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky.
The Golden Bears (17-13) earned an automatic qualifying spot after winning the Association of Independent Institutions tournament. They won both of their games in the tournament by three points, edging Robert Morris (Ill.) University in the finals.
The Lady Lions go into the game with the most wins in the country and one win away from tying the program record. They also enter the tournament with a little unfinished business from last season after being upset in the first round as a No. 1 seed in their quarter.
FHU rides a 17-game winning streak but found itself in a pair of close games during the TranSouth Conference tournament before winning both. The Lady Lions played three games against tournament qualifiers, going 3-0 in those contests.
The other teams in Freed-Hardeman's quarter include second-seeded Vanguard (Calif.), third-seeded MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), and sixth-seeded William Woods (Mo.).
The winner of this game will face the winner of the Campbellsville (Ky.)/Wiley (Texas) contest Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Senior point guard Natalie Shumpert was named the TranSouth Conference Player of the Year, marking the second straight year she has won the honor and making her the first FHU player to win multiple player of the year awards. From Paducah, Ky., Shumpert is also a two-time NAIA All-American. She averaged 15.8 points per game along with 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.2 steals. She led No. 1 Freed-Hardeman to an unbeaten record in conference play and a 29-win regular season.
Fellow senior Ashley Tate was named the conference's defender of the year. Tate, a guard from Memphis, averaged 2.1 steals per game and had countless deflections that led to steals for her teammates. She also leads the conference in assists at 4.2 per game. Maria Bagwell, a repeat all-conference selection, averaged 8.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while playing only 22 minutes per contest. Her production increased in conference games where she averaged 11.4 points per game.
Alonso de Armino, the only sophomore on the all-conference squad, also elevated her play in conference games, averaging 12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.7 steals per game. For the season, she averaged 9.2 points and 5.9 rebounds.
Click here to visit the NAIA National Tournament website for brackets and to listen to games.
Click here to visit the TranSouth web site.