BILLINGS, MT-The No. 18 Bethel University Lady Wildcats received an at-large bid and will face No. 15 Wayland Baptist in the Duer Bracket of the 2017 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship, presented by Wells Fargo" in Billings, Montana. The championship runs March 15 through March 21. The two will tangle Thursday, March 16 in the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark with tip-off slated for 11:45 a.m.
Matchups: Bethel is 23-10 on the season. The Lady Cats finished 17-3 in Southern States Athletic Conference regular season action and finished in a tie with Loyola for the regular season championship. The Lady Cats lost to Mobile in the SSAC title game. Bethel is one of four SSAC squads to make the field. The Lady Wildcats are 51-5 in their last 56 SSAC regular season games. Wayland Baptist enters the field at 25-6 and was the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament runner-up falling to Oklahoma City 85-65 in the title game.
Bethel & Wayland Baptist in the NAIA Championship: The Lady Wildcats will make their fifth -straight and eighth all-time appearance in the national tournament. The Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight two seasons ago in the Championship, before falling to eventual runner-up Campbellsville. It was Bethel's second straight Elite Eight appearance. Last year Bethel, a No. 1 seed bowed out in round one after a 56-51 loss to Cumberland University. The Lady Cats are 6-7 all-time in the national tournament.
WBU is making their 24th appearance in the championship. Only Campbellsville (25) has made more appearances in the big dance. The Flying Queens are 25-23 all-time in the tournament.
Coaches: Coach Chris Nelson is in his 11th year as head coach of the Lady Wildcats. He is 239-119 in his career at Bethel. He is the all-time wins leader in Lady Wildcat history. His 2014-15 squad finished with the best record in program history at 32-4. For the second straight year Bethel worked their way into an Elite Eight finish. The Lady Cats had a 24 -game winning streak during the year, which is the longest in program history. They ran the table in the SSAC regular season with a perfect 18 game winning mark capturing the SSAC title. Bethel finished No. 4 in the 2015 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Coaches' Postseason Top 25 Poll. He is assisted by Tyler Tate and Jennifer Nelson. His graduate assistant is Derrick Hubble.
Alesha Robertson-Ellis is the head coach of the Flying Queens.
The Lady Wildcats lost to Mobile 68-58 to Mobile in the SSAC title game.
Oklahoma City defeated the Flying Queens in the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament championship 85-65.
Series: The game marks the first meeting ever between the two programs.
Common Opponents: There are no common opponents on the year.
On the Air: The game will be available on WEIO, 100.9 and at www.thefarmradio.com. The Countdown to Tip-off Show begins at 11:30 a.m. Fans can also watch live video of the game at www.naia.org.
Did You Know?
Bethel finished the regular season 14-0 when scoring seventy points or more.
They were 13th in scoring defense at 57.2 points per game.
The Lady Wildcats are No. 9 in made three-pointers with 254.
During Coach Nelson's tenure as head coach which spans 358 games the Lady Wildcats have hit at least one three-pointer in each game. The last time the Lady Wildcats did not hit two or more in game was on November 31, 2010 when they hit just one against Campbellsville.
They are No. 9 in Rebound Margin at 8.4.
Morgan Martin is No. 18 in three's made with 74. She was named the SSAC Freshman of the Year. She is third in scoring on the team at 11.5 points per game.
With her 17 points earlier this season against Brewton-Parker in Mount Vernon, Georgia Bethel's Shamon Pearson became the fifteen member of the Bethel Lady Wildcat illustrious 1,000 Point Club. Pearson has scored 1,098 points and is just eight tallies from moving past former Bethel great Amanda Cunningham for 11th on the all-time scoring list. Shamon led Bethel in scoring on the year at 13.7 points per contest. Pearson led the team with four double-doubles.
Brandi Goodman was named the SSAC Newcomer of the Year. She is averaging 12.9 points per game and is second in scoring on the team.
Pearson and Goodman both were named to the SSAC All-Conference 1st team. Goodman was named the team's Champion of Character recipient.
Martin and Cayla Sheets were named to the SSAC 2nd Team.
Sheets, Madison Steppee and Abbey Dew were named to the SSAC All-Academic squad.
Bethel was 11-3 at home on the year. They are 77-9 all-time in Crisp Arena. They are 36-1 all-time against SSAC opponents in the arena.
Bethel is 20-0 when leading at the half.
They are 19-1 when they have more rebounds in a game.
They have outshot twenty opponents this year and are 19-1 in those games. They are 4-9 when being out shot.
The Lady Cats are 17-2 when hitting more three's and 2-7 when the opponent makes more three's. They are 4-1 when tied in three's.
Bethel is 8-7 when having more turnovers and 14-2 when the opponents have more turnovers. They are 1-1 when tied in turnovers.
The Wildcats are 11-2 when making more free throws and 11-8 when the opponent makes more in a game. They are 1-0 when tied in charity tosses.
The Cats are 19-4 when three or more players are in double figures.
They are 9-4 in day games and 14- 6 at night.
Bethel is averaging 68.2 points per game. The Lady Wildcats are yielding 57.2 points per contest. Bethel was number one in scoring defense in the SSAC.
The Lady Cats rank in the top-10 in the NAIA in total rebound defense (32.5), 3-pointers made (254) and assist/turnover ratio (1.109)
They have been held to 64 points or fewer in each loss. Wildcats have hit 7+ triples in 19 games this year.
Other SSAC teams making the field are Loyola, Mobile and Martin Methodist.
WBU averages 81.1 points per game. They yield 66.8 points per outing.
The 81.1 points per game is fifth in the nation. They have hit 251 three's which is 11th in the country.
Five Flying Queens average in double figures. They are led in scoring by Jade Jones who averages 14.0 points per contest.
Bethel Coach Chris Nelson is among several elite national coaches taking part in the 2017 National Exposure Basketball Coaches Clinic at Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee April 8-9.
Other coaches include Holly Warlick (Tennessee) Jeff Walz (Louisville) Matt Insell (Ole Miss) Rick Insell (MTSU) Melissa McFerrin (Memphis) and others.
The NEB Media Coaches' Clinic is a two-day instructional clinic for coaches of all levels. The coaches will share valuable insight and education for teaching basketball as well as coaching techniques and life skills. The event will also feature live, on court demonstrations with top college athletes and multiple vendors.
For a look at the complete field and brackets visit: www.naia.org.