STEVENS POINT, Wis. — The FDU-Florham Devils are national champions, after completing a perfect 33-0 season by defeating Whitman 80-72 on Saturday night at the Quandt Fieldhouse.
Kyra Dayon received tournament most outstanding player honors for her performance throughout the weekend and was joined on the all-tournament team by senior point guard Jalessa Lewis. Lewis led the way for FDU-Florham with 21 points, six assists and four rebounds on the night.
The game began with a fast pace that set the tone for the entire first half. Whitman junior guard Heather Johns consistently pushed the ball up the floor for the Missionaries and they held an 11-4 lead five minutes into action. Johns led all scorers with 25 points and left it all on the floor for the Missionaries in defeat.
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Kyra Dayon scored the Devils first 10 points of the game to keep FDU-Florham within striking distance. Kara Dayon converted a layup off of an on-point outlet pass from Alyssa McDonough to cut the Missionaries lead to 15-12. Shortly after, Kyra Dayon capped a 12-5 scoring run by the Devils with a layup to knot the game up at 16-16. Dayon led all scorers at the break with 15 points on 5-for-9 from the floor. The junior drained a long 3-pointer to give the Devils their first lead of the contest, 21-18 with 8:58 to play in the opening half.
However, the Missionaries responded and continued to push the tempo, which resulted in 20 points in the paint and a 33-32 lead at the break. Johns led the Missionaries with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists at intermission.
The second half started as a see-saw battle, Shalette Brown nailed a jumper but Traver countered with back-to-back 3-pointers to give Whitman a 41-37 lead with 17:18 to play
A steal and a jumper by Johns gave Whitman 45-39 lead but Kyra Dayon retaliated with a trey to bring the Devils back within three points with 15:53 to go. After the media timeout, Coach Mitchell’s team executed to perfection, which led to a game-tying 3-pointer by Leigh-Ann Lively.
Johns answered with another bucket to put the Missionaries in front 47-45, but Alyssa McDonough reclaimed the lead for the Devils by converting an and-one opportunity with 14:33 to play in regulation.
With 8:51 to play, Traver drilled another 3-pointer to put the Missionaries back on top 59-57 but after a Whitman free-throw, Lively knocked down her own 3-pointer to even the score at 60-60 with 8:03 remaining in the contest.
Kyra Dayon found Delisha Thompson for a back-door layup, which put the Devils ahead 64-62 with 6:24 to go. Two minutes later, Lewis gashed the Whitman defense for the basket and a foul, and after knocking down the free throw the Devils led 69-62.
The Devils held a 74-68 lead with 1:16 to play, when Lewis hit Groom for an easy layup, which built the FDU-Florham lead to eight. With 48 ticks to go, Lewis iced the game with two free throws to complete the historic season.
FDU-Florham is the first NCAA women’s basketball champion in New Jersey history and the first team to claim a championship since 1996.