Clarke women beat Thomas More, win first NAIA national title

Clarke Pride logo.
Clarke Pride logo.(Courtesy: Clarke University Athletics)
Published: Mar. 19, 2023 at 2:59 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Nicole McDermott scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Giana Michels added 14 points to help Clarke beat defending-champion Thomas More 63-52 Saturday night to win its first NAIA national title.

Thomas More’s Zoie Barth converted a three-point play to make it 50-all with 4:01 to play but Michels finished through contact and made the and-1 free throw to put the Pride back in front 11 seconds later and spark a 9-0 run over the next nearly-three minutes to seal it.

Barth led Thomas More with 16 points, Courtney Hurst scored 13 and Emily Simon added 11.

The Pride committed 22 turnovers but made 21 of 23 from the free-throw line and outrebounded Thomas More — which shot just 32.2% (19 of 59) from the field -- 44-22.

Thomas More (31-4) played its fourth consecutive national championship game (2019, ‘21, ‘22 and ‘23 — the 2020 championship was canceled due to COVID-19) and has won three national titles since 2016.

The Saints lost 71-68 at No. 25 Pikeville to close out their regular season and then lost to Shawnee State — snapping a seven-game win streak against the Bears — in the quarterfinals of the Mid-South Conference Tournament before winning five straight to get to the national championship game.

Clarke (33-4), ranked No. 7 in the final coaches poll of the regular season, won its final six games of the season.