DOTHAN, Ala. (Mar. 9, 2007) - The Lady Bucs showed a lot of heart and emotion, as they made sure they lived one more day by moving into the A-Sun Finals with a 78-72 victory over Jacksonville on Friday night inside the Dothan Civic Center. The win marked ETSU's sixth straight victory, 20th win of the season, and they will now have a chance to win its first conference tournament title in school history on Saturday.
Senior Brooke Wilhoit (Sevierville, Tenn.) was one key component as to why ETSU survived another day as she led the team with 14 points and dished out nine assists. Michele DeVault (Columbus, Ohio) overcame a disappointing first half by scoring 11 of her 13 points in the final 20 minutes of the game. The Dolphins had four reach double figures with Virginia Gregoire leading all scorers with 22 points.
The first eight minutes of the game were as tight as they come with both teams combining for four ties and six lead changes. Jacksonville held its largest lead at 6-2, but with the Dolphins leading 14-12, ETSU finally gained some momentum as they went on a 9-0 run thanks to the hot shooting of Wilhoit. She scored all nine of those points during the run by nailing back-to-back threes, then converting on a three-point play with 8:51 on the clock. Virginia Gregoire stopped the run by hitting a three, cutting the ETSU lead to 21-17, as Gregoire scored 11 of Jacksonville's points at that point. The Dolphins would get to within two, 27-25, but the Lady Bucs' defense came together as they held Jacksonville to four points in the final 3:20 and went into the break with a 40-29 lead.
Things looked shaky for ETSU when DeVault was forced to sit out the rest of the first half with 14:15 left on the clock by picking up three quick fouls, but her teammates rallied as eight of the nine Lady Buc players scored. Wilhoit led ETSU with nine points after the first 20 minutes, and Gregoire led all scorers with 11. Pressure defense caused the Dolphins a lot of problems as they coughed the ball up 13 times, leading to 14 points for the Lady Bucs. Both teams shot the ball well from the free throw line as they combined to go 13-of-15, with ETSU hitting 9-of-10. ETSU held the largest lead of the half when they led 40-27 at the 1:27 mark.
ETSU did not waste anytime building to its first half lead as they charged out of the break extending its lead to 15, 48-33 with 15:31 remaining in the contest. The Lady Buc lead would remain in double figures until the 6:17 mark when Danielle Gray sank two free throws, making it a 64-56 game. ETSU pushed the lead back to 10 as DeVault drained two free throws, but Jacksonville would not go away as they inched its way to three, 70-67, when Courtney Jackson hit a three with 2:17 left in the contest. However, the Lady Bucs proved they wanted the game more as they went on a quick 6-0 run, and withheld the Dolphins comeback.
For the second straight night the Lady Bucs shot over 50 percent as they finished 53.8 percent (28-52) for the game, and held Jacksonville to only 38.8 percent shooting (26-67). The Lady Bucs are now 6-1 when shooting over 50 percent for the game. The freshmen trio of Latisha Belcher (Ridgeway, Va.), Devin Thompson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) gave ETSU a huge lift off the bench tonight as they outscored Jacksonville's bench, 26-7. Belcher led the way with 10, while Thompson and Wiles pitched in eight apiece.
The Lady Bucs will look to head to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history as they take on No. 1 seed Belmont in the A-Sun Championship on Saturday. Tip is set for 2 p.m. EST with the game being televised live on CSS. ETSU has all ready secured a trip to at least the WNIT with the win tonight, marking the first time in school history that both the men and women will be playing postseason play.