VUU Lady Panthers claim NCAA regional title, advance to Elite Eight

3/17/2017, 8:44 p.m.
Virginia Union University women’s basketball Coach Ann-Marie Gilbert is making plans to return to familiar territory — the state of ...
Virginia Union University’s Lady Walker poses with the victory trophy and net Monday night after the Lady Panthers defeated California University of Pennsylvania to win the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region title. Lady Walker scored 32 points in the regional championship game and was named to the All-Atlantic Region team. Photo courtesy Virginia Union University Athletic Department

Virginia Union University women’s basketball Coach Ann-Marie Gilbert is making plans to return to familiar territory — the state of Ohio.

The next stop for Coach Gilbert’s Lady Panthers is Columbus, Ohio, site of the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.

Sixth-seeded VUU will play No. 3 Columbus State University of Columbus, Ga., in a quarterfinal game at noon Tuesday, March 21, at Ohio Dominican University.

Columbus State is 31-1 and has won 22 straight games.

Other quarterfinal matchups are Ashland University of Ohio against West Texas A&M University, Harding University of Arkansas against Queens College of New York and California Baptist University against the University of West Florida.

The VUU Lady Panthers, now 26-4, qualified for Ohio and became the Atlantic Region champion by defeating host California University of Pennsylvania 85-69 on Monday night.

Earlier, the Lady Panthers ousted Wheeling Jesuit University of West Virginia 66-58 in the Atlantic Region quarterfinals and Indiana University of Pennsylvania 62-58 in the regional semifinals to advance to the finals.

Coach Gilbert starred as a player — leading Division II in scoring — and later became a successful head coach at Oberlin College of Ohio. Her husband, Jonathan Walker, is from Cleveland.

Also, VUU standout center Lady Walker, who scored 32 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against California University, hails from Cleveland. Two Lady Panthers reserves, Lawren Nelson and Morgan Daniel, also are from Cleveland.

Lady Walker was named to the NCAA Division II Conference Commissioners Association All-Atlantic Region team.

The Elite Eight semifinals will be Wednesday, March 22, with the championship game set for Friday, March 24.

The Lady Panthers won the regional title without leading scorer Brittany Jackson. The junior guard was benched because of a disciplinary infraction. The university hasn’t announced whether Jackson, a 5-foot-9 multidimensional guard, will be reinstated for the Elite Eight.

The Lady Panthers won the NCAA Division II title in 1983 and was runner-up in 1984. Last year, the team won the Atlantic Region title at Barco-Stevens Hall on the VUU campus before losing in the national quarterfinals in Sioux Falls, S.D.