Lady Bucs finally get the Bear off their backs, advance to A-Sun Championship, 82-60
Friday, March 6, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 6, 2009) - The third time was the charm for the Lady Bucs.


After being swept in the regular season by Mercer, the Lady Bucs were finally able to get revenge on Friday afternoon. ETSU exploded out the gates in the Atlantic Sun semifinal contest and never gave the Bears a chance to know what hit them, as the Lady Bucs cruised their way to an 82-60 victory inside Lipscomb's Allen Arena.


Junior TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) bounced out of a minor shooting slump and scored a game high 22 points (9-of-14 shooting) and dished out four assists. Fellow junior and 2009 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) posted her 17th double-double of the season - finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) enjoyed her homecoming, as she tied her career high with 15 points and dished out seven assists. Rounding out the scoring for the Lady Bucs was freshman Gwen Washington's (Manassas, Va.) 11-point, 6-rebound effort.


The win marked ETSU's eighth straight victory in Nashville, and the Lady Bucs pushed their record to 19-10 on the season. In addition, the victory placed ETSU into Saturday's championship - marking the third straight year the Lady Bucs will be playing for a conference title. With the loss, Mercer's season came to an end, and the Bears finished the year 17-14.


"I was so proud of how our team came out and opened up the game" commented head coach Karen Kemp, whose team is now one win away of making the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. "We talked about how the team needed to get off to a strong start and jump on them early, so I was pleased with how we executed our game plan on both ends of the court early on. Our fans also gave us a lift, as they were behind us from the opening tip and we appreciated their support."


The Lady Bucs came out focused and on a mission to start the game, as ETSU hit five of its first six shot attempts and took a 12-3 lead into the first media timeout at the 15:58 mark. Wiles and Washington - a pair of all-conference selections - got the Lady Bucs rolling as they accounted for 10 of the first 12 points.


The fireworks continued over the next five-plus minutes as ETSU was able extend its lead to 16, 21-5, after sophomore Shannon White (Kansas City, Kan.) laid one in on fast break, forcing Mercer to burn a 30-second timeout with 12:54 on the clock. A flurry of 3-pointers by ETSU kept the pressure on Bears thanks to Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Kami Phillips (Augusta, Ga.) draining back-to-back treys, lifting the Lady Buccaneer advantage to 27-9 with 11:11 remaining in the half.


Mercer went on a brief run from 10:44 mark to 7:32 left in the half and lowered its deficit to nine (29-20), but a (Tara) Davis 3-pointer silenced the Bears, as ETSU pushed its lead back into double figures, 32-20.


ETSU continued pouring it on the Bears and Evans' put-back as time expired gave the Lady Bucs a 44-28 lead at the break. Evans converted the three-point play when she was fouled on the tip in.


The Lady Bucs shot a blistering 62.1 percent (18-29) and connected on six of their 13 three-point attempts (46.2 percent) during the first 20 minutes of action. ETSU also assisted on 12 of its 18 made field goals and out-rebounded Mercer, 22 to 16. Wiles paced the Lady Bucs with 14 points, while Courtney Ford netted 12 for the Bears.


Mercer quickly started the second half on a 5-0 run, but again Davis stepped up and sank a huge 3-pointer and Washington's offensive rebound on an Evans missed three resulted in an easy lay-up - putting ETSU back up 14, 49-35, with 17:39 left in the contest.


From there, the Lady Bucs moved their margin to 19, 60-41, when Evans sank a pair of free throws at the 13:38 mark, but after the Bears held ETSU without a field goal for nearly nine minutes, Mercer was able to clip the deficit down to nine (66-57) with 6:34 left in the contest.


However, ETSU finally snapped out of its field goal drought when Evans nailed a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, and Wiles' three-point play capped off any thought of a Mercer rally as the Lady Bucs led 72-57 with 5:36 remaining in the game. Eventually ETSU closed out the game on a 10-3 run to walk away with the 22-point victory.


For the game, ETSU shot a season-high 54.0 percent from the floor (27-50) and the Lady Bucs were also solid from beyond the arc - going 9-of-20 (45.0 percent). The Lady Bucs dominated the Bears on the boards - 45 to 31 - and ETSU converted 16 offensive rebounds into 19 points.


After shooting 58.5 percent from the field last Saturday against ETSU, the Bears finished with a 35.2 clip (25-71). The Bears saw three players score in double figures with Dominique Chism netting a team high 18.


ETSU now awaits the winner of Jacksonville/Belmont (currently in progress) for the 2009 Atlantic Sun Championship on Saturday. Tip time is set for noon (1 p.m. eastern).


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