Karen Hutson converted a three-point play with 1.3 seconds left to give fourth-ranked Northwestern a 63-62 win over upset-minded Tabor (Kan.) in the first round of the NAIA Division II women's basketball national championship.
Trailing by three (62-59) after Tabor completed a 9-0 run, Alli Engebretson made 1-of-2 free throws to make it a two-point game with 1:19 left to go. The Blue Jays missed on a three-point attempt with the shot clock winding down but controlled the rebound, only to miss on another potential game-clinching three-pointer from the corner. Paige O'Neal grabbed the rebound and the Red Raiders called a timeout with 17 seconds left to go.
Northwestern worked the clocked down to three seconds when Engebretson missed on a jumper but Samantha Kleinsasser pulled down the offensive rebound and called another timeout with 1.3 seconds left to play. The Red Raiders again left the timeout and executed their inbounds play to perfection, finding Hutson open underneath for the basket and the foul. The junior calmly stepped to the charity stripe and made the game-winner, preventing the first upset of a top-seed by an eighth seed in championship history.
"I trusted my teammates and I knew we weren't going to give up until the buzzer sounded," said Hutson. "It definitely went through my head that this could be the end but it wasn't and we're all really happy about that."
The game was tight the entire way and featured seven ties and 15 lead changes.
Northwestern shot 43% for the game but struggled from the perimeter, going 3-for-15 (20%) from the three-point arc. Engebretson led all scorers with 21 points while Kleinsasser (16) and Hutson (13) were also in double figures. Northwestern held a 45-33 advantage on the boards, led by O'Neal with 11, who also dished out eight assists.
Tabor shot 35% for the game, 31% (9-for-29) from the three-point line. Tonisha Dean led the Jays with 14 points while Mallory Zuercher scored 11.
Northwestern will now play fifth-seeded Huntington (Ind.) in Friday's second round at 1:45pm. The Foresters defeated fourth-seed Menlo (Calif.) 77-72 in the first round.
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