Cameron provides late-game heroics; Golden Eagles survive Benedictine to advance

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BILLINGS, Mont. -- After seven lead changes and seven ties, the lead swung one last time, this time back to the No. 19 and fifth-seeded John Brown University women's basketball team (23-8) and sophomore Baily Cameron's triple with 1:48 handed the Golden Eagles the lead for good to extinguish No. 13 and fourth-seeded Benedictine (Kan.) on Thursday (March 16) evening in the Round of 32 of the 2017 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship, presented by Wells Fargo, at the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.

The game-clinching triple would have never happened, however, without the hustle of junior Rosa Orpo, who redirected the carom off a Jana Schammel triple attempt. Hustling for the loose ball in the post, on her way to the floor, Orpo shoveled JBU's fourth offensive rebound toward an awaiting Cameron at the top of the arc, who, without hesitation, drained the 11th and final John Brown triple of the evening, handing the designated visiting team a 66-64 lead with 1:48 left in the contest.

After another defensive stand, junior Kimmy Deines drove the hole and drew a shooting foul and hit both shots. Facing a four-point deficit, the Ravens (25-9) responded with a bucket to draw within two.

Again, Cameron let go another triple attempt that rattled down, effectively placing the dagger in the heart of the Ravens, who at the beginning of the second quarter, owned a seven-point advantage in a contest of wide pendulum swings.

Benedictine retaliated with another triple and Deines split a pair at the line after drawing a foul, keeping the JBU lead at three, 72-69. Now with a chance to tie the game with 24 seconds left, Cameron notched arguably the most important play of the game.

Desperate to keep the Ravens from drawing within one or tying the game, Cameron stepped in front of Haylee Beard's pass into the post, notching her sixth steal of the game, a career-high. Immediately fouled, Cameron calmly sank both attempts with nine seconds left to seal the victory.

Both teams recorded 44 points in the second half, but it was JBU's 6-of-11 shooting in the second quarter that provided the difference. Hitting 54.5 percent of its chances in the frame, the Golden Eagles reversed a 20-13 Raven lead into a 28-25 advantage, riding out a 15-5 run that was capped off with a Schammel triple from the right arc. Six different players scored in the period and after owning a 10-4 lead midway through the first quarter, John Brown carried a 30-28 lead into the intermission.

The Golden Eagles controlled the first six minutes of the third quarter. At the 3:58 mark, Benedictine's Kristen Murphy hit a basket that ignited a 14-4 Raven run. It went from Benedictine trailing 48-39 to leading 53-52, its first lead since 6:13 in the second quarter.

Both teams shot 30 percent in the first quarter, trying to find a rhythm, as the squads combined for 26 misses through 10 minutes of play.

"I think the two teams are so similar, there's not a lot of difference," admitted head coach Jeff Soderquist, who evened his all-time record at the NAIA National Championships to 4-4. "I knew it was going to be a close game."

Cameron led all scorers with 27 points and six steals and, after a difficult debut in the big dance, finished 9-f-16 from the floor after missing five of her first seven shots. The All-America honorable mention also added a 7-of-10 effort from the charity stripe. Senior Kodee Powell extended her career by hitting 4-of-6 behind the arc to add 14 points and four assists while Schammel netted 10 points on 2-of-7 shooting from long range.

"Baily has been our leader the whole year," added Soderquist. "We had a lot of people step up at key points in the game."

Benedictine was led by Beard, who had 18 points and five rebounds. Murphy put in 17 points, dished out five assists and grabbed four boards in the loss.

After a difficult first quarter, John Brown shot over 50 percent in each of the final three periods, finishing the game at a 45.5 percent clip while the Ravens hit 42.9 percent of its attempts, but committed 17 turnovers, which the Golden Eagles turned into 19 points. JBU committed just 13, and just five in the second half.

The Golden Eagles will now continue on to the Round of 16 where it will match up with the tournament's biggest surprise, William Woods (Mo.). The eighth-seeded Owls (21-11) knocked off the Liston Bracket's top seed and No. 3-ranked Shawnee State (Ohio), 88-85, handing the Bears (31-3) a season-ending loss.

View the updated tournament bracket here.

John Brown will take on WWU at 9 p.m. on Friday (March 17) with the winner eyeing a spot in the Exclusive Eight on Saturday (March 18) at 9 p.m.

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