JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) _ After a little soul searching, the Oklahoma City women's basketball team won its fourth straight NAIA national championship.
Jhudy Gonzales scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds Tuesday night to help the Stars beat top-seeded Southern Nazarene 82-73 for the title.
``Before the game, Coach (Janelle) Jones turned off the lights and we held each other's hands and we visualized this. I love this place. This was very special,'' said Gonzales, voted the tourney's most valuable player.
Rita Banks' basket with 10:01 left in the first half put Oklahoma City (36-2) ahead for good at 17-16. The field goal sparked a 23-7 run that ended with a basket by Gonzales and the Stars with a comfortable advantage.
Oklahoma City, seeded No. 2, went on to enjoy its biggest lead at 69-47 following a 3-pointer by Sarah Kincannon with 6:49 left.
Minutes later, Sasha Seriogina made two free throws to start Southern Nazarene (33-5) on a 24-7 run that closed the margin to 76-71 with 59 seconds remaining.
The Stars countered with two free throws by Veronique Alesse and a basket by Gonzales to preserve the victory.
Banks finished with 16 points and Kincannon added 15. Seriogina led the Crimson Storm with 24 points, Ndeye Ndiaye had 18, and Katie Korfe and Katie Snodgrass scored 10 each.
Oklahoma City is only the second team in NAIA history to win four straight championships. Southern Nazarene did it from 1994 to 1997.
``I told them all they needed to be soldiers, front-line warriors, and in the end they would all be heroes,'' Jones said. ``And they are.''