Jerica Nelson helped Central Methodist University capture its first victory in the NAIA DI Women’s Basketball National Championship in school history.
No. 5 Central Methodist, based out of Missouri, lost a 15-point second-half lead and needed late-game heroics to knock off No. 4 Biola University, 52-49, in an opening-round game Wednesday at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Montana.
After Biola grabbed a 49-47 lead late in the fourth quarter, Nelson converted 1-of-2 free throws with 1:56 remaining, which was followed by a go-ahead contested layup by DaJonee Hale — a Houston High School graduate — with 22 seconds left.
Biola misfired on a 3-point attempt and Hale finished the game with a pair of free throws.
Nelson, a 2014 Kodiak High School graduate who led the Bears to a state title her senior year, had a team-high seven assists, a season-high six steals and three rebounds.
The sophomore starting guard added three points, all coming from the charity stripe in 30 minutes. She misfired on all eight of her field goal attempts.
CMU, which was 0-2 in NAIA tournament games, advances to play top-seed Lindsey Wilson College (31-2) at 7 a.m. (Alaska Standard Time) Friday in Billings.