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Thomas More women begin journey to possible NAIA national title on Saturday in tournament opener

By Don Owen
NKyTribune sports editor

While competing at the NCAA Division III level, the women’s basketball program at Thomas More captured three national championships.

Now a member of the NAIA, Thomas More is ranked No. 1 nationally and expected to challenge for another title. The Saints (25-1) begin the journey to a possible national championship Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Connor Convocation Center.

Zoie Barth averages 13.2 points per game. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Top-seeded Thomas More will meet the winner of Friday’s Union (Ky.)/Olivet Nazarene first-round game. Olivet Nazarene is 17-3 and enters the NAIA Tournament with a nine-game winning streak. Union is 15-5 after dropping a 70-62 decision to Reinhardt (Ga.) in the semifinals of the Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament.

The 16 winners from each of the three-team pods around the nation will advance to Sioux City, Iowa, at the NAIA finals. The 40th annual championship takes place at the Tyson Event Center from March 18-23.

Thomas More owns a 10-game winning streak going into Saturday’s contest. The Saints are 13-0 at home this season and own a 131-4 record inside the Connor Convocation Center since the 2012-13 campaign.

Thomas More won back-to-back NCAA Division III national championships in 2015 and 2016. The Saints added a third national crown in 2019 before transitioning to the NAIA last season.

Sophomore guard Zoie Barth averages 13.2 points per game to lead a balanced attack for Thomas More. Barth, a Highlands High School graduate, also averages 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. She was named the MVP of the Mid-South Conference Tournament after leading the Saints to the championship.

Sophomore guard Courtney Hurst is scoring 11.6 points per game and leads the team in 3-pointers made with 69. Hurst, a Conner High School graduate, is 69-for-187 from behind the arc.

Jeff Hans has won three national championships at Thomas More. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Senior guard Briana McNutt averages 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Junior guard Taylor Clos, a Campbell County High School graduate who played two years at Northern Kentucky University, is scoring 9.2 points per contest. Clos has also drained 31 shots from 3-point range this season.

Sophomore forward/guard Emily Simon averages 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Summer Secrist is scoring 6.4 points per contest, while sophomore forward Kenzie Schwarber averages 5.7 points per game.

Freshman guard Maggie Jones — who poured in 14 points against Campbellsville in the Mid-South Conference Tournament championship game — is netting 4.9 points per contest.

Thomas More averages 72.1 points per game and is limiting the opposition to 56.0 points per contest.

Head coach Jeff Hans has won three national championship at Thomas More and owns a 254-22 record in 10 years with the Saints. Hans guided the Saints to perfect seasons in 2014-15 (33-0), 2015-16 (33-0) and 2018-19 (33-0).

The NCAA forced Thomas More to vacate the 2014-15 national championship and all 33 victories due to an eligibility issue that was discovered after the season.

Don Owen is sports editor of the Northern Kentucky Tribune. Contact him at don@nkytrib.com and follow him on Twitter at @dontribunesport.

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