Lady Wildcats Basketball Gets First NAIA D-1 Tourney Win

JACKSON, Tenn.(03.18.10) - (Box Score) Bethel (Tenn.) University earned its first NAIA tournament win with a 61-56 victory over Columbia (Mo.) College in the first round of the 2010 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament. The Bethel Lady Wildcats are making their second straight appearance and second trip overall to the Division I national tournament.
Columbia opened the game with a 7-1 run, including the first four points of the contest. Bethel went almost seven minutes to start the game without a field goal until Nina Djokovic ended the drought with a basket at the 13:28 mark.

Djokovic finished with a game-high 14 points and 12 rebounds, including nine points and 10 rebounds in the first half.

Despite the slow start from Bethel, Columbia was not able to take advantage. The Lady Wildcats slowly chipped away and after a couple of ties, Bethel took their first lead, 24-23, at the 4:28 mark of the first half. Bethel pushed the first-half lead to as many as four points, including the 30-26 halftime lead.

In the second half, Columbia outscored Bethel 7-2 to regain a 33-32 lead in just over a minute of play. Over the remainder of the second half, the teams produced five ties and six lead changes with no lead greater than four points until the final seconds.

The Lady Wildcats took the lead for good when Kashundria Berry made 1-of-2 free-throws to give her team a 57-56 lead with 53 seconds to go. A big play of the game came with Bethel leading by just one point with 23 seconds left. Lady Wildcat forward Jovana Petrovic got an offensive rebound on a missed free-throw. The two subsequent free-throws for Bethel put the score at 59-56.

Columbia committed two turnovers and had a three-pointer partially blocked in the final 33 seconds of play. Bethel made 5-of-7 free-throws in the final minute of play.

Bethel was led by Djokovic's double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Berry, Teena Carter and Tristian Johnson each added 11 points. The Lady Wildcats managed just 30 percent shooting from the field and 26 percent (6-23) from behind the arc.

Columbia was led by Janita Session with 13 points and Whitney Widaman with 12 points. Veronica Smith and Denise Rosario each added 10 rebounds. The Cougars shot 36 percent from the field and 27 percent (3-11) from long range.

Bethel advances to the second round for the first time for a 2:15 p.m. game on Friday March 19 versus #1 seeded Vanguard University (Calif.).