Express Come Up Just Short in National Title Bid

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The Owens Women's Basketball team, who played with just six players almost the entire season, came up short in the NJCAA Division III National Championship, losing to Hostos 73-63.

The first half was a difficult one for the Express. Owens kept within a possession of Hostos for most of the first period. The score was 12-10 in favor of the Caimans at the 2:37 mark of the opening frame. But Hostos would close the quarter on a 7-0 run to put themselves up nine at the end of first at 19-10.

A Shyah Wheeler three in the early moments of the second cut the Caiman advantage to just six points. With the score at 23-17, Hostos would go on a 12-2 run over the next four minutes, to push their advantage to 16 at 35-19. Owens would trim their deficit down to 11 points with 2:32 to play in the first half, but the Caimans would make an 8-0 run to push their lead to 42-24 at halftime.

The Express had plenty of work to do, but like they have done all year, the team would claw their way back into the game. After the deficit ballooned to 20, the Express would go on a 7-0 over the next three and a half minutes, which was capped off by another Wheeler three. Hostos would answer back, however, pushing their advantage back to 20 points at 55-35 with 2:40 to play in the third. The Express would close the quarter on an 8-2 run to put themselves down 14 heading to the final quarter of play.

The final quarter of play was another series of runs by both teams. Owens would cut the Hostos lead to just 10 early in the fourth, and the two teams would trade baskets for the next several minutes. The Caimans would extend their lead again, this time to 18 points with 4:23 to play in the game. The Express would not go quietly, cutting their deficit back to just ten points once again on a pair of Moreina Moore free throws. Unfortunately for the Express, they would never get closer than nine points the remainder of the ball game, and their run fell just 10 points short as the final buzzer sounded.

Taylor Works, in her final game in an Owens uniform, led the Express with 19 points on 5-10 shooting and 9-11 from the free throw line. She also had nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals against Hostos. Her play over the course of the tournament was good enough to get her named to the NJCAA All-Tournament team. Shyah Wheeler battled through some bumps and bruises to post 18 points as well. Her efforts over the three tournament games also earned her a spot on the All-Tournament team.

Moreina Moore, who was in foul trouble early, scored 11 points and she also had four rebounds in just 26 minutes of play. Tori Kopp and Whitney Thames would combine for 21 rebounds between the two of them. Kopp ended with 13 while Thames had eight points. Liliana Velazquez finished with six points, which came at a crucial point late in the fourth quarter.

As a team, Owens shot 35.7% (20-56) from the field and 73.9% (17-23) from the free throw line.

The Express's season ends with an overall record of 25-9. The National Runner Up finish is the highest place the program has ever placed in its history. The previous high was third place during the 2014-15 season.

Owens also won its seventh straight conference title, and in the process, the team became the first Division III school to either share or win an OCCAC championship. The team win the Regional XII Championship for the second year in a row, They also won the District B Championship over Rock Valley, who were the National Runner Up a year ago to Hostos.

Taylor Works finishes the season as the team's leading scorer with 17.4 points per game and the team leader in assists. Moreina Moore and Shyah Wheeler each averaged 17 points per game this season as well. Whitney Thames averaged a double-double for the year with 10.6 ppg and 11.1 rebounds per game. She was the team leader in rebounds per contest.

Owens will return five of its six players for next season, with Works being the lone sophomore of the group.