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Thomas More women defeat Hope (Mich.), 72-57, earn return trip to NCAA Division III Final Four

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By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

Big-game performers are usually at their best in pressurized situations, and Thomas More College followed a pair of proven standouts Saturday night to earn a trip to the NCAA Division III Final Four.

Senior guard Abby Owings netted nine of her 18 points in the fourth quarter as Thomas More defeated Hope College, 72-57, at Holland, Mich., to advance to next week’s national semifinals. Junior guard Madison Temple also scored nine of her game-high 25 points in the final quarter for the Saints, who won their 29th consecutive game and improved to 30-1.

Madison Temple scores two of her game-high 25 points during Thomas More’s 72-57 win at Hope (Mich.) on Saturday night. The Saints earned a trip to the NCAA Division III Final Four with that victory. (Photo by Allen Ramsey)

Holding a 45-43 lead early in the fourth quarter, Thomas More scored six unanswered points to build a 51-43 advantage with 7:53 remaining. Hope (29-2) could get no closer than six points the rest of the game, and Thomas More earned its third trip to the Final Four in the past four years.

Temple shot 8-for-16 from the field and made all eight of her free throws. She also added three steals and grabbed four rebounds.

Owings made four 3-pointers, including a crucial trey in the fourth quarter that extended the Thomas More lead to 54-45 with 6:25 remaining. Owings also collected three steals for the Saints, who forced Hope into 21 turnovers and outscored the Flying Dutch 27-11 off those miscues.

“To come up here in this environment, and to be able to pull out a victory over a very good program in Hope, is unbelievable,” Thomas More head coach Jeff Hans said. “You saw a lot of resiliency from our team. We defended, and we didn’t turn it over [as much] in the second half. I think we had 10 turnovers at the half. But we took care of the basketball in the second half, and we showed more composure on the offensive end.”

Taylor Jolly drained a trio of 3-pointers and finished with 13 points for Thomas More, which shot 41 percent from the field. Nikki Kiernan grabbed eight rebounds as the Saints won the battle of the boards by a 33-30 margin. Emily Schultz chipped in seven points, a game-high four blocked shots and six rebounds for Thomas More.

Francesca Buchanan scored 13 points to lead Hope, which shot 45.5 percent from the field. A year ago, Hope ended Thomas More’s 28-game winning streak with a 74-67 victory in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament at Crestview Hills.

“Our goal this year is to get back to the championship game, but we wanted to play Hope again to have a chance to redeem ourselves after last year’s loss,” Temple said. “Winning here tonight meant a lot to us.”

Thomas More, which is ranked No. 3 nationally in the NCAA Division III poll, has not lost since a 61-58 setback at Rochester (N.Y.) on Nov. 18. The Saints will meet top-ranked Amherst College (31-0) on Friday at the Final Four at Rochester, Minn.

Thomas More won back-to-back NCAA Division III national championships in 2015 and ’16. The NCAA later forced Thomas More to vacate all 33 wins from the 2014-15 season, including the national title, for using an ineligible player.

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