DOTHAN, Ala. (Mar. 10, 2007) - The Lady Bucs were thinking the third time would be the charm against Belmont, but the Bruins had other plans in store as they defeated ETSU, 69-57, in the A-Sun Championship game on Saturday afternoon inside the Dothan Civic Center.
The Bruins earned the Atlantic Sun's automatic bid to the 2007 NCAA Tournament with the win, while ETSU will host the conference in the 2007 WNIT. It will be the Lady Bucs' second postseason appearance in school history, while it marks the first time both ETSU men's and women's teams made the postseason in the same year. With the loss, ETSU dropped to, 20-11, while Belmont improved to 25-6. The 20 Lady Buc wins are the second most in school history, only behind the 1980-81 and 1994-95 squads.
Belmont opened the game scoring the first four points, but a Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) three-pointer got ETSU on the board, making it 4-3 at the 18:28 mark. The Bruins pushed their lead to 9-3 as they went on a 5-0 run, but TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) snapped a four and a half minute scoring drought for the Lady Bucs with a lay-up, and a Kelly Turman (Atlanta) lay-up cut the lead to, 9-7 with 11:57 on clock. From there Latisha Belcher (Ridgeway, Va.) made her presence felt as she tied the game at 11, thanks to back-to-back lay-ups by the freshman post player. A Turman free throw gave the Lady Bucs their first lead of the game with 7:58 left before the break, and another Belcher jumper gave ETSU its largest lead at 16-13. The game remained tight for the final eight minutes of the half, as there were four ties and four lead changes. Despite being held to no field goals during the final 6:02, ETSU only trailed by three, 24-21 at the half.
Both teams did not shoot the ball well during the first 20 minutes as ETSU shot 23.3 percent (7-30), and Belmont was slightly better at 30.8 percent (8-26). Each team only hit one three, but free throws were the difference maker as the Lady Bucs went 6-for-11, and the Bruins hit 7-of-9. The ETSU bench kept them in the game as they scored 16 of its 21 points, thanks to Belcher and Turman who each added seven apiece.
The Bruins came out and pushed their halftime lead to seven, 33-26, when Kristen Bunch hit a three with 16:48 remaining in the game. However, the freshmen trio of Belcher, Wiles and Devin Thompson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) came in and rejuvenated the Lady Bucs. Wiles nailed only her sixth career three and then connected on a jumper with 12:51 left, cutting the Belmont lead to 36-32. Brooke Wilhoit (Sevierville, Tenn.) found the right time to make her first field goal as she got fouled and converted on the three-point play, making it a 36-35. Belmont would push its lead back to six, 41-35, but Turman stepped up at a key time as she scored eight of ETSU's next 10 points to cut the lead to 46-45 with 5:06 remaining. From there Belmont posted a 9-2 run, which extended its lead to 55-47. ETSU would get to within six, 57-51, but a 12-6 Bruin run in the final minute and fifty-eight seconds secured its first-ever A-Sun Championship. The Bruins final nine points came from the free throw line, with Alysha Clark hitting four of them.
Free throw shooting was the storyline in the game as the Lady Bucs finished 56.0 percent (14-25), compared to 78.8 percent (26-33) for Belmont. Fatigue set in after both teams played three games in three days as neither team shot above 40 percent for the game. ETSU shot 29.4 percent (20-68), while Belmont was 38.0 percent (19-50) from floor.
The ETSU bench stepped its game up today as they scored 38 of its 57 points with Turman scoring a team-high 17 points. Belcher finished with nine points and eight rebounds, and was one of two Lady Buc players to be named to the all-tournament team. Senior Brooke Wilhoit also joined Belcher after playing almost all 120 minutes in the three-day tournament, averaging 10.7ppg and 7.3apg in the three games. Freshman TaRonda Wiles added to the solid bench play, ending with nine points, five rebounds and two steals. Belmont's Clark led the way with a game-high 22 points and 16 rebounds, and was named to the all-tournament team and was the conference's player of the tournament.
ETSU will now have to wait until late Monday evening to find out whom they draw in the 2007 WNIT. Selections will be announced after the NCAA Women's Selection Show, which begins at 8 p.m.