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Marian women claim back-to-back NAIA basketball titles

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Marian women are national champions for the second time in as many years. The Knights earned back-to-back NAIA basketball titles on Tuesday with a 66-52 win over St. Xavier.

After a tight battle through the first half, Marian rallied after halftime. Marian outscored St. Xavier 24-8 in the third quarter. Marian’s defense held St. Xavier to 4-for-14 shooting in the quarter and the Knights never looked back, taking a 47-38 lead into the fourth. The Knights would not be denied in the final quarter, outscoring St. Xavier 19-14 to win 66-52.

Four players scored double figures for the Knights with Jessica Almeida’s 18 leading the way. Joana Soeiro added 12 points, six rebounds and nine assists, while Kelly Kirkhoff scored 13 and Ana Kirby finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Karen Jones provided quality minutes off the bench, finishing with seven points.

Marian shot 43 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. The Knights out-rebounded St. Xavier 36-34 and forced 14 turnovers. Marian outscored St. X 22-18 in the paint.

After the game, Katie Gearlds was named NAIA National Coach of the Year for the second-straight season. Soeiro was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and Kirkhoff and Almeida earned all-tournament honors.

The Knights finish the season 35-3 overall and won 23 games in a row to end the season.