The Association of Christian College Athletics national basketball tournament brought together six women’s teams representing Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Manitoba in Joplin, MO March 1-3. Arlington Baptist and Randall University were awarded the number-one and two seeds, respectively, and each received first-round byes.

Fourth-seeded Providence faced host Ozark Christian College on Thursday, March 1, having come off a frustratingly early exit from the National Christian College Athletic Association regional tournament the previous weekend. Early on it looked as though the Pilots were in for some more disappointment as they trailed much of the first quarter. But the second sparked what would be the game’s turning point and a higher level of play that would serve Providence well through the remainder of the tournament.

The Pilots took the lead and never looked back, winning 73-66. Hannah Van Schie registered 15 points and 9 rebounds while Joanna Schwarz added 13 points and 7 steals. Katelin Thiessen contributed a further 10 points.

Providence then faced Arlington Baptist—ranked number-one in both the ACCA and NCCAA and in search of a fourth ACCA national championship in a row. Early on the Pilots were able to break the press of Arlington and go shot-for-shot. But Arlington wore their opponents down as the game went on, although Providence outscored them 24-14 in the final quarter. The 102-61 score-line was lopsided, and Arlington’s Zayda Gonzalez—one of the top players in the country—put up 28 points and shot 8 for 11 from beyond the arc. ACCA All-American First Team member Taylor Goodbrandson led the Pilots with 15 points and 4 rebounds.

And so, for a second season in a row, the Pilots women contested the ACCA third-place match. In 2016 Nashville’s Welch College prevailed, and the six returning Providence players took their memories of that loss—and the evaporation of a 20-point lead—into Saturday’s showdown with Rhema Bible College.

After the first quarter the game was knotted at 16 points apiece. At the half the Pilots trailed by a single point. But in the third the Providence women outscored Rhema 28-16 and then held off the Eagles to secure the third-place trophy—the program’s best finish since 2007. Thiessen sunk 7 of 7 free throws, and Schwarz led the Pilots in scoring with 21 points. Alena Collier recorded a career-high 17 points.

“We shot the ball well, we defended well, and the strong play was contagious,” remarked head coach Joel Coursey. “I couldn’t be more proud of the women and their performance. I hope they understand their true potential and that this is a sign of things to come.”

All 12 members of the Pilots women’s basketball team are eligible to return next season.

(Photos courtesy Joey Traa.)

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