By Matt Green
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Kayla Jenerette scored a game-high 20 points as third-seeded Cedarville withstood a furious Shorter rally in the final minutes to score a 64-56 victory over the fifth-seeded Lady Hawks in the 5th Place Game of the NCCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship in Winona Lake, Ind.
The Yellow Jackets (19-9) depart the tournament in fifth place while the Lady Hawks (18-13) take home a sixth place finish in their first NCCAA Tournament appearance.
Shorter doesn't end the postseason without hardware – the Lady Hawks will hang a NCCAA South Region Championship banner in the Winthrop-King Centre while heading into next season with four straight national tournament appearances in hand.
The Lady Hawks nearly bounced completely back from a rough first half and a 21-point deficit in the second half with a huge comeback that spanned the final six minutes of the game.
Shorter trailed 51-30 with 14:39 to play as Cedarville rode the hot shooting of Jenerette to build what appeared to be an insurmountable edge. The Yellow Jackets still led by 18, 55-37, on a Taylor Vander Plas 3 as the shot clock expired at the 10:32 mark.
But the Lady Hawks, who had rallied from a 23-point deficit to defeat Olivet Nazarene at last year's NAIA National Tournament, summoned that same magic as they made a late push against Cedarville.
Shorter trailed 60-47 with just under six minutes to go, but embarked on a 7-0 run over the next three minutes to cut the deficit to 60-54 on two Ieshia Alexander free throws.
The Lady Hawks got stops on Cedarville's next three possessions, but went 0-for-3 on the offensive end over that same span and were unable to creep any closer.
Jenerette ended Shorter's hopes by burying a 3-pointer with 39.1 seconds left.
Cedarville's first half performance proved to be too much in the end for the Lady Hawks.
The Yellow Jackets built a 40-26 halftime lead by holding Shorter to 22 percent shooting while hitting 53 percent of their attempts from the field. Jenerette hit a pair of treys and finished the first half with 13 points – her second 3 of the first period capped a 21-7 spurt by the Yellow Jackets that put Cedarville up 29-15 with 7:43 left until halftime after the game had been tied at 8.
Cedarville never let Shorter closer than 14 heading into the break.
Shorter never made it all the way back, but put Cedarville under plenty of pressure down the stretch, setting a foundation for what could be an exciting 2013-14 season.
Karisma Boykin, who was named a first team NCCAA All-American, chipped in with five points, six rebounds and three steals.