The Oklahoma City University bench goes wild

The Oklahoma City University bench goes wild as Daniela Galindo scores at the buzzer against Montana Western on Friday during the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championships at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. Oklahoma City won 81-79 to advance to the quarterfinals.

HANNAH POTES, Gazette Staff

Daniela Galindo said she was her team’s third option.

Turns out, she was Oklahoma City’s best option.

Galindo’s short jumper from the left side at the buzzer lifted the Stars over Montana Western 81-79 during the second round of the NAIA Division I Women’s National Basketball Tournament on Friday at Rimrock Auto Arena.

“It’s my first game-winner,” said a happy Galindo, who finished with 23 points. “I knew time was running out. I heard my teammates saying, ‘3-2-1.’ I watched it (her shot) the whole way and as soon as it fell in, there was blue flying everywhere.”

OCU (31-2), ranked fifth in the nation, will play Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) in a quarterfinal game at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Blue Raiders (32-2) advanced with an 89-72 win over Central Methodist.

The Stars have won eight national titles, the most recent in 2015. OCU has won an NAIA-record 68 games at the national tournament.

The Bulldogs, who received an at-large bid, finish 24-9. UMW came to Billings ranked No. 21 in the latest NAIA Top 25 poll.

Galindo’s game-winner overshadowed a spectacular 3-point shooting performance by UMW’s Aniese Palmore. The senior guard from California made a school-record eight 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 29 points. The 29 points matches a career-high for Palmore, set earlier this season against Montana State-Northern.

“She did what she did most of the year," said Bulldogs’ head coach Lindsay Woolley. “She had a great two tournament games.”

UMW led by as many as 10 in the second quarter and 39-32 at halftime.

“Offensively, we played well. We moved it and shared it,” Woolley said. “We just couldn’t stop them inside.”

The Bulldogs finished with 14 3-pointers, more than double their season average of six per game.

Stars’ center Brooke Irwin finished with a team-high 24 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field. Daniela Wallen, the nation’s leading scorer, added 22 before fouling out.

“They had the momentum. We had to fight the whole way,” said Galindo. “It was especially tough when our best player, Daniela, fouled out. We talk about holding on to the string. We had to hold on and keep fighting.”

Janae Haag’s basket put OCU up 79-77 with less than a minute to play. UMW tied it with single free throws by Kaye Bignell and Palmore. Palmore made hers with 7.4 seconds remaining.

“We had three options,” explained Galindo of the game’s final play. “Take it inside to draw a foul, bring it back out to our point guard … I think I was the third option … to get me the ball in the corner. I pumped faked and put the ball up.”

“We were trying to trap them,” Woolley said. “There was no way we were going to keep them off the boards. It was a roll of the dice.”

Taylor Howlett added 20 points for the Bulldogs, while Bignell finished with 13.

NOTES: UMW is 7-9 all-time at the national tournament. … The previous 3-point record was seven, shared by Alison Burlingame (1999 vs. Western Oregon) and Jill Dana (2007 vs. Augustana). Palmore broke the record with 2:50 left in the game. … The Bulldogs were trying to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002 and only the second time in program history. … Galindo is the nation’s top free throw shooter, making 90 percent (81 of 90) of her attempts. She was 2 for 2 in Friday’s game. She also ranked second nationally during the regular season for 3-point field goal percentage (.494). … Wallen led the nation in scoring average (24.65) and total points and is also second for steals per game and total steals.

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High School Sports, Rodeo Reporter

Sports writer for The Billings Gazette.