Ambassadors fend off Knights, advance to semifinals of regional tournament

Feb. 28—Opposite of what the first half was showing, Ozark Christian College was forced to fend off a scrappy Southwestern Adventist University team in order to advance to the semifinal round of the women's NCCAA Southwest Region tournament on Wednesday afternoon at OCC.

The third-seeded Ambassadors (19-3) led the game by as many as 19 but saw that lead dwindle to as many as 2 before claiming a 72-62 victory.

"This team has been able to fight through some adversity all year," Ozark head coach Kyle Wicklund said. "They've been a blast to watch. We had a really bad shooting third quarter and defensively we couldn't stop anybody. But our resilience continuing to fight through it, at the end of the day it helped us pull out a win. And at this point of the season, survive and advance."

The sixth-seeded Knights trailed 50-37 with 3:30 to play in the third stanza after an Allaina Spencer 3-pointer went through the basket for OCC. But down the stretch, the Knights scored 10 of the quarter's last 12 points and ended the quarter with a gut punch of a triple from Sarah Valderrama to make it 52-47.

Ozark's Emmy Colin started the final quarter with a deep 3-pointer to make it 55-47. Valderrama used her shot at the end of the third as a spark. It was her first of the game but then she lined up back-to-back triples to cut her team's deficit down to just 2 points at 55-53.

Just when it looked like OCC could relinquish its lead, Colin buried another triple to make it 58-53. Moments later, Kyndall Scott knocked down an outside shot and gave the home team a 61-54 advantage.

The Ambassadors kept at least a 7-point lead for the remainder of the game.

Colin led the team with 17 points and added seven assists and six rebounds to her stat line. Joining her in double-digit scoring were Dina Marchoud (12), Scott (12) and Reagan Etzel (11).

SWAU was paced by Yunis Balboa's 22 points. Balboa went on a tear for 10 of her points in the third period. Derria Laury added 14 for the Knights while Valderrama and Pamela Colmenares chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The second half was a struggle for Ozark shooting the ball. It only made nine field goals and three of those came from inside the arc as 2-point baskets. It shot 9 for 40 overall and 6 for 23 on treys.

"We definitely are a 3-point shooting team but we're recognizing that teams are going to try and take that away from us," Wicklund said. "They are going to try and get us to drive. We have to continue to pound the ball inside to our bigs. We have a lot of confidence in our bigs. When they catch it and they're one-on-one, they're very, very talented around the rim."

Wicklund says it all comes down to not settling for the first shot down the floor and working to the rim.

The first and third quarters were almost an exact flip as OCC got out to a 23-9 lead in the game but SWAU then won the third 22-8. Ozark won the second and fourth quarters by 5 points apiece.

Wicklund talked about the hot start for his team being a key in the victory.

"They needed one like that after having a long week away and not even getting to practice in our own gym the week prior to this. I was super proud of them to come into this confident and knock shots down," he said.

Wicklund noted that his team's 21 total assists was a positive for his offense. Many of those assists came on 13 made 3-pointers. That's something OCC uses often and has for years now.

OCC meets No. 2 seed Arlington Baptist at 2 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals. These two teams met on Dec. 8 at OCC and the Ambassadors lost that one 74-55.

"We're going to have to bring our fight. We're going to have to come out with grit," Wicklund said. "The girls are ready. They came to our place and kind of spanked us in the regular season so our girls are amped up and ready for this game."

Arlington received a bye in the first round of the tournament.


Awards were handed out following the game for the all-region honors for first, second and third-team players as well as player of the year and coach of the year.

OCC had Colin named first-team all-region for the Southwest Region. Etzel picked up second-team honors while Kyndall Scott and Brooke Nice were named to third-team.

Champion Christian's Kamryn Gentry was named player of the year. Gentry began her career with OCC. CCC head coach Deanthony Ellison earned coach of the year as well.


Fourth-seeded Randall University won the first game of the day over fifth seed Dallas Christian to start the tournament. Randall advances to face top-seed Champion Christian on Thursday at noon.


The men's Southwest Region tournament tipped off at 4 p.m. with No. 3 Dallas Christian facing No. 6 Randall. No. 2 Champion Christian met No. 7 Southwestern Adventist at 6 p.m. The final game of the evening pitted No. 4 Ozark Christian with No. 5 College of Biblical Studies-Houston.

Results were not available for these games prior to deadline. But a men's story can be found on