WATERTOWN, Wis. -- The lead changed hands 11 times in tonight's NCCAA DII Top-10 matchup, but North Central University held it when it mattered most.
Callie Morrison led Maranatha with 16 points while Kelsey Johson logged 13 of her own, but the Sabercats fell, 62-69, to the hard-working Rams.
- Result: No. 4 Maranatha 62-69 No. 6 North Central
- Venue: Maranatha Baptist University
- Location: Watertown, Wis.
- Attendance: 126
- Records: MBU (1-2), NCU (4-2)
North Central was the better team in the early minutes, as they forced the Sabercats off the mark to stay in front. It ended up being a low-scoring opening act, but MBU finally settled in to hold a 10-9 lead after 10 minutes.
Both teams began to connect in the middle stages of the second quarter, and the Sabercats started to heat up from downtown. Rosa Torres, Kelsey Johnson, and Trisha Wright all connected from beyond the arc as Maranatha began to build a lead, and after some tight defense at the other end, MBU entered the half-time break with a 31-27 advantage.
In the opening 20 minutes, the Sabercats spread the wealth - six players registered between 4-6 points to give Maranatha the edge going into the second half.
The Sabercats maintained that edge as the second half started, and Callie Morrison led the way, finishing with 16 points on the night. But the Rams began to build momentum, finally getting the lead back with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter. NCU built that lead to as much as five points in the dying seconds of the third, and when they held the 51-48 lead going into the final act, they had amassed 27 points in the third quarter alone. It was set to be a barn-burner inside the MBU gym.
Consecutive three-pointers from Torres and Karley Johnson gave the Sabercats a lift to start the fourth quarter, but the Rams stayed close, taking the chances they were given to keep it at a one-possession game for the most part.
As the clock wound down, the Sabercats could not keep up with the Rams' pace, struggling with their execution late in the game as the Rams took home a 69-62 win.
MBU Starters: 3-Morrison, 10-Nerat, 12-Johnson, 13-Johnson, 32-Alldredge // NCU Starters: 10-Shield, 12-Bulthuis, 20-Hagstrom, 24-Filer, 33-Rand
- Morrison: 16 points - her third consecutive double-digit performance
- Kelsey Johnson: 13 points
- NCU: had players with 18, 17, and 16 points
- Rebounding: MBU 41-37 NCU
- Last meeting: Maranatha beat North Central in Minneapolis, 64-58
- Series: series is tied at 7
- The Rams compete in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (NCAA DIII) and the North Region (NCCAA DII)
- NCU finished last season with a record of 9-16
- North Central has already beaten two NCCAA North Region opponents this year, topping Calvary (77-56) and Faith Baptist (70-29)
The Sabercats will host another NCCAA North Region opponent, Emmaus Bible College, on Saturday for a 1:00 p.m. tip. Follow at mbusabercats.com/composite.