Lubbock Christian University's move from NAIA Division I to NCAA Division II made some wonder how well the Chaparrals would continue to compete.
The answer is, better than ever.
LCU outlasted Southwestern Oklahoma State 95-85 in double overtime Friday night at Alumni Hall in Columbus, Ohio, winning its second national championship in four years of NCAA postseason eligibility.
Junior center Maddi Chitsey hit a 3-point goal with 2.5 seconds left in the first overtime, tying the score 75-75. Then the Chaps scored the first 10 points of the second overtime and made their free throws down the stretch to bring an oddly anticlimactic end to a riveting game.
What a way to go out for senior forward Olivia Robertson, who scored 24 points in her final game.
"I've never played in a game that intense for a title that big, ever," she said. "I mean, to be double overtime in the national championship game, it doesn't get much better than that. It was just crazy. I've never been part of something that big, but we made the game smaller and we made the game simple and came out with a win."
Now the Chaps will bring home the 2019 Division II championship trophy to place next to the one they won from 2016. In essence, two altogether different teams won the titles, attesting to the staying power of the program Steve Gomez has built since the former Monterey and Cooper boys coach somewhat reluctantly took over the LCU women's program 16 years ago.
LCU finished 32-5 and, in the national semifinals and finals, ended the 35-game winning streaks of top-seeded Drury (35-1) and second-seeded Southwestern Oklahoma State (35-2), which hadn't lost since its season opener.
The Chaps were ranked No. 25 when the postseason started and won four of their six NCAA Tournament games by single digits, three that were up for grabs in the last minute of regulation.
"I don't want anybody to set off my alarm or wake me up," Gomez said. "Not that I didn't think we could win, but just the way the last three weeks have gone ... . It's just been one of those dream runs with a team that has been so tough. They've been as mentally tough as any group I've been around."
Robertson and senior forward Bobbi Chitsey are the only two players from both LCU national-title teams. They were little-used freshmen on the 2016 team that won it all in Indianapolis.
"It's super awesome," Chitsey said. "I can't imagine finishing any other way. Olivia and I know how grand this opportunity is to get to end on such a high. So I'm just super grateful and blessed to be on this team this year and us go through what we went through."
Maddi Chitsey and Allie Schulte scored 22 and 17 points, respectively, and were responsible for perhaps the most important play of the game. Two free throws by Taber Beer gave the Bulldogs a 75-72 lead, and LCU called timeout with 11.2 seconds left in the first overtime to set up an inbound play in the front court.
Executing the play that was drawn up, Robertson missed an open look at 3, but Schulte grabbed the long rebound and fired a pass to Maddi Chitsey, who swished the tying 3 from the right wing.
"If Allie doesn't make that big play and get that board, that shot doesn't even happen," Robertson said, "so that was a huge play by her and a huge play by Maddi for stepping up and hitting that shot with confidence."
All-America guard Hailey Tucker had 30 points and 16 rebounds for SWOSU, the 6-foot-2 senior dazzling at times with 3s from well beyond the arc. Sophomore forward Bethany Franks scored 25, including 14 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
"I can probably say that's the toughest opponent and the toughest game I've ever played in," Robertson said.
SWOSU beat LCU 77-75 in early December, and Gomez told Bulldogs coach Kelsi Musick at the time her team had national-championship potential. He just hoped it wouldn't come at the Lady Chaps' expense.
It looked like it might as SWOSU battled back from a 58-49 deficit early in the fourth quarter and controlled the first overtime by taking leads of 69-66, 71-68 and 75-72.
Once Maddi Chitsey tied it, however, the second overtime belonged to LCU. Robertson hit an 8-footer, then swished a 3. Maddi Chitsey scored from the right wing, and Bobbi Chitsey's 3 from the top of the key made it 85-75 with 1:45 to go.
SWOSU never got it closer than nine after that. LCU made 10 of 14 free throws in the last 1:36, including Schulte's 6 for 6.
According to NCAA research, it was the first NCAA women's basketball national-championship game to go to double overtime.
"We won the game," Gomez said, "but we play that game 10 times and it's probably five and five."
at Alumni Hall, Columbus, Ohio
SOUTHWESTERN OKLAHOMA STATE 85
LCU -- O. Robertson 11-19 0-2 24, B. Chitsey 4-11 1-3 10, M. Chitsey 8-16 4-6 22, Schulte 5-9 6-6 17, Ca. Cunyus 4-10 0-0 10, Davis 0-1 0-0 0, J. Robertson 1-1 2-2 4, Turner 3-3 1-1 8. Totals 36-70 14-20 95.
SWOSU -- Aska 1-11 0-0 3, Hedrick 1-5 0-0 2, Franks 8-18 8-10 25, Tucker 10-25 5-5 30, Priddy 4-13 2-2 12, Beer 2-6 2-2 8, Gray 0-1 0-0 0, Percival 0-0 0-0 0, Sperle 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 28-84 17-19 85.
3-point goals: LCU 9-24 (M. Chitsey 2-4, O. Robertson 2-5, Ca. Cunyus 2-6, Turner 1-1, Schulte 1-2, B. Chitsey 1-6), SWOSU 12-38 (Tucker 5-13, Beer 2-5, Priddy 2-8, Sperle 1-2, Franks 1-3, Aska 1-5, Hedrick 0-2). Total fouls: LCU 14, SWOSU 18. Fouled out: Franks. Rebounds: LCU 48 (M. Chitsey 13), SWOSU 45 (Tucker 16). Assists: LCU 18 (B. Chitsey 5), SWOSU 17 (Aska 8). Steals: LCU 5 (B. Chitsey 2, O. Robertson 2), SWOSU 11 (Franks 6). Turnovers: LCU 18 (O. Robertson 5), SWOSU (11 (Tucker 3). Blocked shots: LCU 7 (M. Chitsey 4), SWOSU 4 (Tucker 3). Records: LCU 32-5, SWOSU 35-2.