HOLLAND, Mich. — Illinois Wesleyan’s women’s basketball team and its five-guard starting lineup stands tall as NCAA Division III national champions for first time after ousting 3rd-ranked George Fox (Ore.) University (32-1), by a score of 57-48, on Saturday night at Hope College.
The Titans, who had more losses entering the Final Four than the other three teams combined, rode a relentless and scrappy defense and the scoring of tournament MVP Olivia Lett to the top. Lett, who netted a game-high 22 points, scored the final six points by making all of her free-throw attempts.Illinois Wesleyan (28-5) overcame a 48-43 deficit with 3 minutes, 46 seconds remaining. The Titans took the lead for good on a Melissa Gardner 3-pointer with 1:06 to go.
Gardner was a star player for the Central Lady Comets in high school, and set a Titans’ single-season record for 3-pointers this year. Brittany Hasselbring was another local who was a key contributor to the championship season, she was Bishop McNamara's consistently successful high school girls' team.The Titans showed mettle overcoming an illness- and injury-plagued 3-4 start to the season. They won their final 14 games, including six in the NCAA tournament.