Sioux City, Iowa – Junior center Brittany Collins (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West) led the way with 14 points and eight rebounds, but No. 3 ranked Saint Xavier University did not get the ending it hoped for in the NAIA Division II National Championship game falling to defending national champion and No. 4 ranked Marian University (Ind.), 66-52, at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The third quarter seemed to be the turning point as the Cougars (34-3 overall) held a 30-23 halftime advantage, but were outscored 24-8 in the game's third period. In the post-game ceremony, Collins and junior guard Kara Krolicki (Mokena, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) were both named to the five-member All-Tournament First Team. Krolicki was also named the 2017 NAIA Division II National Player of the Year, the first-ever individual honor for the 17-year-old program.
Senior guard Mikayla Leyden (Chicago, Ill./Trinity) and freshman guard Maddie Welter (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) each added 11 points. Krolicki finished with 10 points. Leyden tacked on seven rebounds and seven assists. Leyden set the tournament record for total assists logging 44 over the five-game stretch. The previous record was held by Julie Miller of Western Oregon during the 1995 national tournament. In addition, Collins broke the tournament's record for rebounds in a tournament with 68. The old mark was 67 set by Katie Dent in 2006. SXU could not get its shots to fall most of the night, but especially in the second half where the team hit just 32 percent (10-for-31) and 22 percent from the three-point arc (2-for-9).
The Cougars got off to a hot start hitting big shot after shot to build an early 8-2 advantage and went up as many as seven (24-17). Leyden closed out the big first quarter with a jumper at the buzzer. The Cougars kept the pressure on throughout the second quarter going up by 10 (30-20) on a jumper by Welter with 1:26 to play in the half. Both teams scored just six points apiece in the second quarter which gave SXU its 30-23 halftime edge. After a quick lay-up by Collins to open the second half, Marian got hot hitting a number of big shots and closing the third quarter on a 14-0 run to take the lead for good. Trailing 47-38 going into the final period, SXU could get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Saint Xavier ends its historic season with a 34-3 overall record setting the program record for most games played (37) and wins (34) in a season. The Cougars also made their first appearance in both the NAIA semifinals as well as the national championship game. SXU also won the CCAC Tournament for the first time since 2012 knocking off No. 1 ranked and previously unbeaten University of St. Francis (Ill.), 88-64.
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