MNU ousts GCAC champ Nuggets with wire-to-wire win in NAIA first round

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BILLINGS, Mont. — MidAmerica Nazarene scored the first nine points and did not relinquish the lead Wednesday in a 72-65 women’s basketball victory against Xavier University of Louisiana in the opening round of the NAIA Division I National Championship tournament.

Jas Hill scored 14 points and Caprice Taylor 13 for the sixth-seeded Gold Nuggets (23-8), the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season champion.

Kechelle Figueroa, a New Orleanian, scored 17 points, Whitney Moia 14 and Jovana Jovovic 13 for the third-seeded Pioneers (25-5), who advanced to a 12:30 p.m. MDT second-round game against second-seeded The Master’s.

MNU led 42-25 at halftime after Figueroa heaved in a 3 at the buzzer from about 52 feet, but XULA made it interesting thereafter, winning the third and fourth quarters and limiting the Pioneers to 23.8-percent shooting from the floor. But XULA missed 10 fourth-quarter 3s and finished 6-of-31 (19.4 percent) from behind the arc.

Freshman Da’Jha Virgil made three 3s for XULA, and she and Essence Wells scored nine points apiece.

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