SHREVEPORT, La. – The Wayland Baptist Flying Queens ran into an inspired buzzsaw and watched their national title dreams fade away here Saturday night.
The second-ranked Flying Queens suffered their first loss of the season as red-hot Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio), on the strength of 11 3-pointers, notched a 77-74 victory in an opening round pod final.
“Mount Vernon was really good tonight. They came in with a vengeance. They wanted to knock No. 2 off and they did a good job of that,” Wayland coach Alesha Ellis said.
The win sends the Lady Cougars (16-11), the 35th seed in the original field of 48, to Sioux City, Iowa, as one of 16 teams at the final site, while the fourth-seeded Flying Queens suffer their first loss after 40 straight wins and see their season come to a close with a 13-1 record.
“Things didn’t fall our way,” Ellis said. “There were a lot of should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. It was a perfect storm, I think you could say.”
The difference in Saturday’s game was 3-pointers: Mount Vernon Nazarene made them and Wayland didn’t. The Lady Cougars hit 11-of-26 (42 percent) from long range, including six by Maggie Coe, while the Flying Queens made only 4-of-20 (20 percent). WBU also uncharacteristically struggled at the free-throw line, making 8-of-14 (57 percent). The Lady Cougars made 10 more foul shots, 18-of-30.
“We were a little bit flat on our shooting tonight,” Ellis said.
Wayland got three big free throws from Payton Brown with 12 seconds left, getting the Flying Queens to within two points. WBU quickly fouled and got a break when Rylee Pireu only made 1-of-2 free throws with eight ticks left.
But the Flying Queens couldn’t force overtime as Brown missed a 3-pointer right before the final buzzer.
“I was proud of our girls for fighting back and giving ourselves a chance to win it,” Ellis said.
It was the second-ever national tournament victory for Mount Vernon Nazarene. Its first came on Friday when the Lady Cougars defeated LSU-Shreveport, 73-58, to earn the right to face Wayland, which received an opening bye.
Wayland led 22-20 after the first quarter but trailed 35-32 at halftime. The Queens fell behind by as many as eight, 43-35, midway through the third quarter. But WBU rallied and pulled to within 46-43 going into the fourth period.
The Flying Queens even went ahead by three when Tayjanna McGhee-Pleasant made a putback bucket to give Wayland a 50-47 edge with 7½ minutes to play, capping a 15-4 run.
But a technical foul against the Flying Queens helped the Lady Cougars to a five-point possession during a 7-point run that took MVNU from a 52-50 deficit to a 57-52 lead.
Wayland never led again.
The Lady Cougars were up 71-64 with 53 seconds to go. WBU’s Brown and Kaylee Edgemon hit buckets, and Brown connected on a 3 with 24 seconds left to cut it to four. MVNU hit 1-of-2 free throws but Brown couldn’t connect on another 3. Two more missed foul shots by the Lady Cougars with 18 seconds to play kept Wayland alive, leading to Brown hitting her three free throws with 12 seconds to play.
Brown ended with a team-best 20 points, followed by Edgemon with 18. Blakely Gerber and Jenna Cooper tacked on 10 points each. Edgemon, Cooper and Brown pulled down eight rebounds each, and Cooper had six assists before fouling out late.
MVNU got a season-high 23 points from Coe, who was 6-of-11 from long range after not making more than four in any one game before Saturday. Taylor Gregory and Sage Brannon finished with 15 points each, with Brannon hitting 10-of-12 free throws.
Ellis already is thinking about next season.
“We have to get better as a whole on the defensive end. We have to get quicker there,” the coach said. “We have to start now. What we did this year obviously isn’t good enough.”