BATESVILLE, Ark. – Although a No. 17 ranking in the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Coaches' Top 25 Poll, a 28-win season and an American Midwest Conference regular season co-championship will more than likely assure the Lyon College women's basketball team of at least an at-large bid in next month's national tournament, the Scots would like to shore up a sure thing and clinch their berth.
That destination could come as early as Friday night as AMC No. 2-seed Lyon College hosts No. 3-seed and No. 23-ranked William Woods University (24-5) in the semifinal round of the conference tournament in James C. Becknell Gymnasium. The game will tip-off at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the event are $5 for adults and $2 for college and high school students with an ID and will be available at the door.
With a 10-team league this year, the AMC earns two automatic bids into the 32-team field of the March 13-18 NAIA Division I Women's National Tournament, which will be played in Frankfort, Ky. No. 15-ranked and No. 1-seed Columbia College (25-6) earned the first bid by claiming the tie-breaker and earning the No. 1 seed in the postseason tournament after claiming the AMC regular season co-championship with Lyon College.
The Scots (28-3), who have won 12 straight and 19 of their last 20 games, can clinch the second berth into the national tourney by defeating No. 23-ranked William Woods on Friday and advancing to the tournament championship game, if Columbia knocks off No. 4-seed Williams Baptist University in a 7 p.m. home game in the other semifinal.
If any team in the league, other than Columbia, captures the postseason tourney, it will earn the second automatic bid. And if the Scots and Cougars meet in the tournament title game, Lyon will automatically earn that bid.
If Columbia and Lyon both advance to the championship game, the title game will be played Monday night in Columbia, Mo. If Lyon wins and Williams Baptist (17-14) upsets Columbia on Friday, the title game will be played in Batesville. The highest seed remaining hosts the title game. That game will be played at 7 p.m.
The Scots reached the semifinals by defeating No. 7-seed Missouri Baptist University (11-21), 79-62, Wednesday night in Batesville. Phagen Altom, who went over the 1,000-point barrier in her three years at Lyon, tied her career high of 23 points against the Spartans on Wednesday. She hit 6-of-11 from the field and 9-of-10 from the charity stripe. The Scots trailed 41-39 at the half, but outscored MBU 41-20 in the second half to pull away.
William Woods, last season's conference tournament champion, blew past No. 6-seed Harris-Stowe State University (10-21), 79-49. Owl junior Katie Scherder scored a career-high 19 points in the victory. She led the team with five three-pointers.
Despite being 2-0 this season in games played against the Owls this season, both contests between the squads were close. The Scots won, 62-55, in Fulton, Mo. and 77-70 in overtime in Batesville.
Lyon College will give the Owls plenty of challenges on Friday, as the Scots enter the game as the No. 2 scoring team (69.8 ppg) in the conference and the No. 1 defensive squad (55.7 ppg). William Woods is No. 2 in scoring defense (57.2 ppg) and No. 3 offensively (68.7 ppg).
The Scots have the highest field goal percentage (43.4%), while the Owls are No. 2 in field goal percentage defense (.34.7%), No. 2 in total rebounds offensively (41.8 rpg) and the No. 1 in assists per game (14.4).
Priscila Santos is the only William Woods player averaging double-figure scoring, pouring in 16.3 points per game. Katie Scherder is the team's top rebounder, hauling in 6.7 per contest. Santos is a close second at 6.6 rebounds per contest.