Conquistadors rally for first trip to CAC Championship

Conquistadors rally for first trip to CAC Championship game graphic.
Conquistadors rally for first trip to CAC Championship game. (March 2, 2024)

(Box Score)

LAWRENCE, KS. (March 2, 2024) – Florida National University’s women’s basketball team (15-10) made program history after defeating the Arkansas Baptist College Buffaloes (8-13) 88-76 in the 2024 Continental Athletic Conference (CAC) Women’s Basketball Championship tournament’s semifinal. FNU erased an 11-point deficit in the third quarter to extend its current win streak to an impressive 11 contests. FNU previously defeated ABC in Arkansas on Feb. 3 by a similar score of 89-76. 

In the opening quarter, the Buffaloes held a 19-18 lead thanks to a three-minute stretch where FNU was held to one point on a made free throw from Janelisse Marty Marrero. The Conquistadors led by as many as eight in the opening frame, as a three-point play from Jullie Ruiz Paneto put FNU in front 13-5. 

The second quarter saw ABC hold on to a precarious 36-33 lead at halftime after a made jumper from Koko Banks to end the period. FNU was able to get a ton of production from forward Kyla Cruz Baez, who ended the night with eight points and did a masterful job on defense. She disrupted passes and led a very difficult press down the stretch to keep FNU within reach of the Buffaloes. 

The second half began with an impressive 12-4 run from Arkansas Baptist with six minutes left in the period. From that point on, Marty Marrero and Tyra Kirlew found another gear when FNU needed it most. A consistent scoring run combined with over 30 turnovers from ABC in the contest helped FNU tie the game on a jumper from Marty Marrero with less than a minute left in the third. Kirlew picked up a monstrous block and four points down low, as FNU entered the fourth with an eight-point advantage.

FNU outscored ABC 25-21 in the final frame as Marty Marrero ended the evening with 33 points on 13-24 shooting from the floor. Ruiz Paneto posted another huge contest for FNU with 25 points, four assists and four rebounds. Kirlew and Cruz Baez combined for 16. 

FNU also received one of two automatic bids from the CAC to the NAIA national tournament. 

Up Next: The Conquistadors’ quest for glory continues tomorrow in the CAC Championship game versus RV College of the Ozarks. 

Continental Athletic Conference (CAC) logo.