Photo Courtesy of Wes Sturtz
Harrison, AR – The championship game on Saturday went as it had for Kirkwood all season: ending with a victory, only this one meant the Eagles reached their end goal of a national title and a perfect season.
Led by Simone Goods' big game of 19 points and 17 rebounds, the Kirkwood Eagles and the Johnson County Cavaliers traded blows early on. It was 17-12 at the end of the first quarter.
The Eagles came out hot to start the second quarter, extending a lead to double-digits. Kirkwood took a 33-21 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Starting the third quarter, Kirkwood scored three quick points to take a then game-high 15-point lead over Johnson County. The Cavaliers were not done however, going on a 15-3 run over a several minute span to bring the score to 39-36 with a three-pointer from Johnson County's Shaleia Jamison.
That would be as close as the Cavaliers got. A made Kirkwood free throw followed by a Niaja Taylor three on the next possession helped the Eagles create some breathing room and had a 43-36 advantage at the end of the third.
The Kirkwood defense would be stifling throughout the fourth quarter, only allowing ten points the final frame, holding on for a 61-46 win to claim the seventh national championship in program history.
Over the course of the season, Kirkwood won 30 of its 37 games by 20 or more points and only twice did a team manage to get within 10 points– a 71-65 win at NIACC on Feb. 1 and a 65-63 win over Cincinnati State in the National Tournament quarterfinals.
It would appear on paper that the Eagles faced little adversity over the campaign. That wasn't entirely true, however. With their dream perfect season and a national championship on the line, down 61-53 with just over three minutes to play versus Cincinnati State, the Eagles were resilient.
With a team effort led by a go-ahead three-pointer by Megan Axcell with 30 seconds left and a come from behind block by Simone Goods on what looked to be an easy game-tying lay-up for Cincinnati State, the Eagles held on to win and advance to the semifinals.
After that wake up call, the Eagles really showed their muscle the next two games. Forcing 29 turnovers in their semifinal against Kankakee en route to a 76-49 win. Then in the championship, Kirkwood out-rebounded Johnson County 42-29 on the way to the win.
This championship marks Kirkwood's seventh championship in school history, all under the direction of head coach Kim Muhl. However, this is first undefeated season for the member of the NJCAA Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
Simone Goods was named the Most Valuable Player of the NJCAA DII National Tournament. Goods scored 58 points over the four tournament games and added 35 rebounds. Goods finishes the season as the NJCAA DII leader in field goal percentage with a very accurate mark of 67.5% (the next highest percentage was 61.1%).
Delayah Harris and Tanyana Wilson also made the All-Tournament team for Kirkwood and Coach Muhl won the Lorene M. Ramsey Coach of the Tournament award.