By Mike Monahan

Lake Land’s defense again stood tall in the women’s Division II National Championship basketball game, holding Johnson County to just 1-of-8 3-pointers and forcing 18 turnovers.

Free throws played a big part as the Lakers made 18-of-20 in capturing their first NJCAA National Championship on Saturday, 53-49. 

Lake Land trailed Johnson County 42-37 with 9 minutes, 7 seconds left in the Division title game. The Lakers then outscored the Cavaliers, who were the No. 1 ranked team for most of the season, by a 7-2 margin to tie the score at 44.

A basket by Harley Barry with 3:40 remaining gave Lake Land the lead for good. 

The Lakers led 49-46 when the Cavaliers (19-2) attempted a 3-pointer out of a set play from the corner and missed. Johnson County, a strong rebounding team, got the ball and fired up a shot from inside the lane and missed again.

After a scramble, Kamaria Gant came up with the rebound and was subsequently fouled with 9 seconds left and made both free throws for a 51-46 lead.

Johnson County, though, made a 3-pointer – one of just a few for them – that bounced in with 2.2 seconds remaining. Gant was fouled when she received the inbounds pass and made both free throws to assure Lake Land its first national championship. 

Gant and Harley led the way with 14 points apiece. 

Karrington Krabel had been injured with 4:22 left after she landed awkwardly. Gant shot the free throws for her for a  44-42 lead. Krabel didn’t return. 

Lake Land, the No. 2 seeded team and ranked third in the final poll, finishes 25-2, winning its final 16 games. 

The celebration began with hugs all around, including to Krabel, who was in a wheelchair.

We’ll have an updated story later tonight that includes interviews with coaches and players.