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When Immaculata won its first AIAW championship four years ago, it was one of sport's best-kept secrets. For Saturday night's final, sportswriters from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles were on hand, as well as the wire services and NBC. One Mississippi radio station would broadcast the game to three states.
"There's no telling what will happen tonight," a Delta State official said. "This week we've had three tornadoes and an earthquake back home. Last night during the broadcast they took five people to the hospital with heart attacks."
"No matter what happens," promised Jimmy Taylor, one of two Mississippi state troopers assigned to travel with the team, "win or lose, after the team flies into Memphis we're gonna blue-light them all the way home to Cleveland."
The first half pitted Immaculata's crisp outside sharpshooters against Lucy Harris, and the Macs won that battle 32-25. To overcome the slower, more deliberate Lady Statesmen, Immaculata used a running game, streaking down the court, setting up and popping away repeatedly. The Mighty Macs got 16 field goals in the first half, only four from closer than 12 feet. But Harris, with 18 points, kept Delta State in the game.
At halftime the other Ladies decided to give their towering but tired star a little help. "I guess it's my turn," said Ramona Von Boeckman to team captain Wanda Hairston.
No longer looking only for Harris, the Delta State attack became more fluid. Slowly the Ladies caught up, and when they did the lead changed hands 15 times. Von Boeckman, backed by Hairston and the peppery Brock, was everywhere. Then, with 5:47 to play, Hairston went to the foul line and sank a pair to put Delta State ahead 53-52, and the lead never again changed hands.
In the last six minutes Immaculata was called for eight fouls and lost two of its starters—and that was the difference. Of Delta State's final 18 points, 14 of them came from the free-throw line, with Brock putting in the last four. The final score was 69-64. As the Lady Statesmen left for home, the folks down in Cleveland, Miss, got ready for another kind of tornado.