COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Queens College women's basketball team's historic season came to a close in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight on Tuesday night, as the fifth-seeded Knights fell to the fourth-seeded Harding University Lady Bisons, 73-69. Queens erased a 15-point third-quarter deficit to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter, but in the end, the Lady Bisons held off the Knights' late comeback.
Queens finishes the season with a program-record 27 wins at 27-5 overall, while Harding (31-3) advances to the National Semifinals.
Redshirt senior MacKenzie Rowland scored a game-high 23 points and added 10 rebounds for her 23rd double-double of the season, which leaves her tied for 11th in Division II history on the single season double-doubles list. She also added five blocks and four steals.
Senior Madison Rowland, the Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) Ron Lenz National Player of the Year, also recorded a double-double with 19 points and a season-high 10 steals, while grabbing seven rebounds. She concludes her astonishing Queens career with 2,375 points, 1,071 rebounds, 507 steals, 403 assists and 114 blocks.
Both teams started off sluggish offensively over the first six possessions of the game, but the Knights came out ready on defense, forcing the Lady Bisons into three quick turnovers. MacKenzie Rowland tallied the first basket of the day 1:45 into play on a turnaround jumper in the post. Queens then pushed the lead to 12-5 4:08 into the opening period after Madison Rowland intercepted a pass and made a pair of free-throws shortly after.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Mahon then added to that lead just 36 seconds later after dribbling through traffic for a layup to put Queens up, 14-5, before the first media timeout. Fellow sophomore Dah'Vielle Lucas then corralled an offensive rebound and placed it home to extend the lead to nine at 18-9 with 3:37 left in the first. However, Harding ended the period on a 9-3 run to pull within just three going into the second quarter, 21-18.
Senior Joya McFarland ended the Harding run with the first basket of the second quarter on a jumper 1:18 into the frame. Two minutes later, the Lady Bisons responded by tying the game at 23 after a jumper by Caroline Hogue and a three-pointer by Sydney Layrock with 6:16 remaining until halftime. On the Knights' next possession, Madison put Queens right back on top with a jumper, giving the Knights a 25-23 lead.
After a media timeout, MacKenzie added a pair of foul shots, and the two teams traded baskets to keep the difference at two (29-27). MacKenzie then came through with back-to-back blocks, but Harding got to the foul line on its next possession and tied it at 29 with two free-throws. Just 20 seconds later, Falan Miller sank a jump shot to give the Lady Bisons their first lead of the game, 31-29. Mahon tied it at 31 all with 49 seconds left before half on a jumper, but Hogue answered with a jumper of her own 21 seconds later, as Harding went into halftime with a 33-31 lead.
The Knights were out rebounded, 21-17, in the first half and cooled off offensively in the second quarter. After making 53.3 percent of its shots in the opening quarter, the Knights hit just 23.5 percent of their attempts in the second frame. MacKenzie had 11 points at halftime for Queens to lead all scorers.
Harding got on the board first to take a four-point lead, but MacKenzie quickly answered for Queens with a layup to bring it back to a two-point game 1:30 into the half. The Lady Bisons then scored the next seven points to take a 42-33 lead, capped by a three-point conversion by Hogue after drawing a foul on a jumper, forcing a Queens timeout with 6:39 left in the quarter. Harding kept the offense flowing, as the Lady Bisons pushed it to a 13-0 run that lasted 3:48 to take a commanding 48-33 lead.
A quick two by Mackenzie ended the Harding run with 4:10 on the clock, sparking a 7-0 run for the Knights. Merrick nailed a triple to make it a 10-point game, and then hit a deep three from from near-NBA range to pull the Knights with seven at 48-41 with 2:37 remaining in the third. Harding pushed the lead back to double digits, however, as Miller buried a triple for the Lady Bisons. Four points in 20 seconds by Madison brought the Knights back within just six at 51-45 with 1:29 left in the quarter, but the Lady Bisons scored the final six points of the period to take a 57-45 lead into the fourth.
Queens came out shooting to start the fourth, opening the final period on a 13-1 run to storm back and tie the game at 58-58. MacKenzie tallied a pair of jumpers, and with 7:16 remaining, freshman Beth Bonin sank a three-pointer to cut the deficit to just six, and Madison converted 3-of-4 foul shots to bring the score to 58-55 with 6:22 to go. Bonin then drained another three on the Knights' next possession to tie the game at 58 all with 6:04 remaining.
Harding immediately answered, regaining the lead 17 seconds later on a three by A'ndrea Haney, as the Lady Bisons scored six straight points to take a 64-58 lead with 4:47 left. Lucas made a jumper for the Knights to cut it to a four-point difference, but Harding responded with a layup by Sydnie Jones. Madison brought Queens back within three after she stole a Bison pass, made a layup and drew a foul, making it a 66-63 game after the made free-throw.
Each team then traded two baskets apiece over 43 seconds, with MacKenzie making a jumper, followed by a jump shot by Madison that kept the difference at three (70-67). After a Layrock foul shot, MacKenzie drew a foul and converted both of her free-throw attempts to bring the Knights all the way back within two at 71-69 with 1:04 to go. Queens had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final minute, but the Knights turned the ball over, and Haney made a pair of foul shots to ultimately put the game away for Harding, 73-69.
Harding had a better shooting night than Queens, making 47.5 percent of its field goals, compared to 34.7 percent for the Knights. The Lady Bisons also held the advantage in rebounds (47-39), points in the paint (44-32) and bench points (32-11). Jones led Harding with 22 points and 17 rebounds.
It was a record-breaking season for the Knights, setting the single season wins record, while winning the program's first-ever NCAA East Regional Championship and making the school's first appearance in the Elite Eight.