A-SUN CHAMPS!!! Lady Bucs bring outright title home to Johnson City
Saturday, March 1, 2008

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Mar. 1, 2008) - It has been a long and eventful journey for the ETSU women's basketball team, but after closing out its season winning 15 of the last 19 games the Lady Buccaneers claimed an outright Atlantic Sun crown with an 84-56 victory over USC Upstate Saturday afternoon inside the G.B. Hodge Center.


Things looked bleak for ETSU to record its third consecutive winning campaign as they stood 3-7 after the first 10 games. However, the Lady Bucs quickly turned things around to post an 18-11, 14-2 regular season mark. Those 14 conference victories tied a program record en route to earning the No. 1 seed in next week's conference tournament, which marks only the second time the Lady Buccaneers have received the top spot and first since joining the A-Sun. Upstate closed out the season 5-24, 1-15 in its first year playing at the Division I level.


The Lady Bucs received huge contributions from senior Michele DeVault (Columbus, Ohio), Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) and TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) in the scoring department. DeVault ended with a team-high 19 points and hit five threes. Belcher was a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor and finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Wiles netted 11, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists. USC Upstate's Courtney Hawkins tallied a game-high 27 points.


"I am very proud of this team," commented head coach Karen Kemp, who won her first Atlantic Sun title and second regular season championship since being at ETSU. "They have worked hard all season and I am glad to see all efforts pay off."


The game started with USC Upstate holding a 5-4 advantage, but the Lady Buccaneers quickly responded with a 14-2 run and led 18-7 when Belcher laid one in at the 15:46 mark. ETSU opened the game 8-of-10 from the field and held the Spartans to 3-of-7 during the stretch. Fortunately for Upstate Hawkins was on fire as she scored the next eight points of the contest and cut the lead to three, 18-15, with 13:15 on the clock. The Lady Bucs pushed their lead to eight, 27-19, but the Spartans continued to stick around as they lowered the deficit again to three, 31-28, with less than six to go before the break. ETSU continued to score as they poured in 41 points at the half; however, the Lady Buccaneers struggled on the defensive end by allowing a team that was averaging a little over 54 points a game to net 35 in 20 minutes.


The Lady Bucs had no problem hitting their shots as they posted a 54.3 shooting percentage (19-35) in the first half, but ETSU turnovers helped the Spartans stay within striking distance. USC Upstate took a page out of the Lady Buccaneers' book by scoring 14 points on the seven forced turnovers. ETSU dominated in the paint, holding a three-to-one ratio, 30-10. The ETSU post players combined for 32 of the first half points. DeVault led the Lady Bucs with 10, but it was Hawkins who stole the show by adding 19. 


In the second half, ETSU stormed out of the gates and showed the Spartans why they are conference champs. Five of the first six Lady Buccaneer field goals came via the layup and ETSU pushed its lead to 16, 53-37, with 16:45 remaining in the contest. Senior Nichelle Akers (Sumter, S.C.) and Wiles fueled the spark with eight of the 12 points to begin the final half. From there, ETSU continued to build on its lead and extended the advantage to 23, 73-50, when DeVault nailed her 223rd trey of her career (fifth of the game) at the 6:28 mark. Then, Lady Bucs had fun during the final six minutes as coach Kemp was able to use every player on her bench. Jenny Norman's (Peachtree City, Ga.) layup with less than two minutes to play gave ETSU its largest lead and the win at, 84-56.


ETSU finished 36-of-64 (56.3 percent) for the contest and outscored the Spartans by 34 in the paint, 50-16. After letting Upstate score 35 first half points the Lady Buccaneer defense stepped up and limited the Spartans to only 21 points on 7-of-34 shooting in the final 20 minutes. For the game, Upstate went 18-of-64 (28.1 percent) and was dominated on the glass, 45-33. Freshman Kami Phillips (Augusta, Ga.) dished out seven of ETSU's season high 26 assists, while Norman tallied all five of the Lady Buccaneer blocks.


The Lady Bucs now prepare for the 2008 Atlantic Sun General Shale Brick Basketball Championships as they face Mercer in the first round. ETSU tips off Wednesday, but game times will not be determined until conference play concludes late tonight.


Stay tuned to www.ETSUBucs.com for all tournament information on game times and opponents.