WILBERFORCE — The Wilberforce University women’s basketball team is still dancin’.
Playing in the Association of Independent Institutions (AII) Conference tournament, Feb. 22-24 at Lincoln (lll.) Christian University, the No.5 seeded Bulldogs placed third in the eight-team tournament to earn an at-large berth to the NAIA Division II national tournament.
Wilberforce opened up the single-elimination tournament with a mild 71-59 upset of No. 4-seed Fisher College (Mass.) at Gaston Arena. Nia McCormick led the Bulldogs with a game-high 25 points while Malika Wildon and Alexandria Shealey scored 11 each.
That opening win set up a semifinal battle with College of the Ozarks, the AII tournament’s top seed and ranked No. 5 in the nation among NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Division II schools. The Bobcats showed why they’re considered one of the nation’s best, outscoring the Bulldogs 30-8 in the final quarter and defeating Wilberforce by a 100-51 score.
McCormick again led the Bulldogs in scoring, this time with 11 points. Six Bobcat players scored 10 or more points in the Ozarks’ win.
The AII was awarded three bids to the NAIA national tournament, and so Wilberforce needed to defeat No. 3 seeded Haskell Indian Nations (Kansas) in the third-place game to advance. The Bulldogs built up a 14-point lead after the first quarter of play, and made that scoring margin stick, for a 69-55 Wilberforce win.
McCormick finished with 19 points to lead all scorers, while Shealey added 12.
By qualifying to the NAIA tournament, this marks Wilberforce University’s first trip to the women’s Division II basketball tournament in school history.
The 28th Annual NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship will be held March 6-12 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. AII Conference members Wilberforce, tournament champ College of the Ozarks, and runner-up Indiana University Northwest will be among the 32 teams participating in the single-elimination national championship tournament.
Second-year Wilberforce head coach Derek Williams could not be reached for comment before presstime.
The Bulldogs team, coaches and their fans will learn their tournament seeding and first-round opponent during the NAIA’s live reveal, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, Feb. 27 on the NAIA’s Facebook Live page.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123. To follow the Bulldogs online during the NAIA tournament, please visit naia.org .