For the first time in our history, the Belhaven women’s basketball team will play in the 2011 Division I NAIA National Basketball Championship.
Tonight, Head Coach Billy Evans, and the team stepped onto the national stage during the tournament introductions in Jackson, TN.
Play-by-play action of Thursday’s 2:15 pm game can be heard by clicking here.
For all the information on Belhaven’s national tournament click here.
The Blazers, who received votes in the final NAIA Top 25 Poll, enter the championship with an overall record of 24-8 and won the Southern States Athletic Conference West Division title. Its Belhaven’s first 20 or more win season since 1982. Belhaven will open the 2011 NAIA Division I National Championship Tournament against Azusa Pacific University on Thursday March 17th at 2:15 PM at Oman Arena in Jackson, TN.
Belhaven is led by their guards who are all averaging over 10 points per game this season. Junior Regena Jackson has played in 22 games this season and paces the Blazers at 17 points per contest. Jackson has also dished out 131 assists which ranks her 22nd in the NAIA in that category. Junior Kiara Johnson averages 12.4 points per game and sophomore Sarah Carr fires in 10.7 points per game. Carr is also one of the nation’s most prolific three point shooters having knocked down 80 so far this season setting a new Belhaven single season record. Carr is currently ranked 11th in the NAIA for total three point baskets. As a team, Belhaven is outscoring their opponents 70 to 59.9 points per game in 2010-11.
Junior forward Jessica Barlow anchors the post for Belhaven averaging 6.8 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Erika Leflore pulls down 5.6 rebounds per night and junior forward Portia Tucker averages 7.6 rebounds per contest although she has played in only 20 games this season. Defensively, Johnson can create lots of havoc for opposing ball handlers. Johnson has 114 steals this season and averages 3.6 swipes per game. Johnson is third in the NAIA in total steals and fifth in the country in steals per game.
Azusa Pacific is making their 13 appearance at the NAIA National Tournament and garnered one of four number one seeds in this year’s field. The Cougars are ranked third in the final NAIA Top 25 poll and own an overall record of 28-5. Azusa Pacific was the Golden State Athletic Conference regular season champion and also earned an automatic bid. The Cougars are 8-13 overall in national tournament games.
Azusa Pacific has four players averaging 10 points per game or more led by senior forward Alex Porter-Moore at 15.6 points per game. Junior guard Eboni Sadler pours in 14.2 points per game while junior guard Briana Hall chips in with 11 points per game and has 201 total assists which leads the country. The post is anchored by senior center Kristie Hala’ufia and she rounds out the Cougar double digit scorers at 10 points per contest. Azusa Pacific is outscoring their opponents by more than 15 points per game winning their contests by an average score of 77.8 to 62.3. The Cougars are ranked ninth in the NAIA in that category.
On the boards, junior center Amber Williams owns the team lead in rebounds per game at 6.8 this season. Hala’ufia pulls down 6.3 rebounds each time she takes the floor. The Cougars have a lot of height on the roster with three players six feet or taller with two other players standing at 5’11. As a team, Azusa Pacific averages 42.4 rebounds per game and is seventh in the NAIA in offensive rebounds per contest at 17.1.