Last, but not late, to the Dance – and there was plenty of drama:
Bronaza Fitzgerald, a 47 percent free-throw shooter who had missed her other four attempts, made two from the line with five seconds left, giving UNC Asheville a 49-48 victory over top-seeded Radford on Sunday for a second straight Big South Tournament championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“Right now I think it’s all about enjoying this,” Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell said. “We’ve worked so hard for this. I am very much indebted to the three seniors. They committed to a program that was 5-25 and they came here because they wanted to win. From day one they have made an impact on this program. A lot of players came through here before this that helped build this, too. They should feel like they are a big part of this, too.”
Coaching: Down 1 with 14 left, gets the block. UNI calls a timeout, draws up a play. Ellie Herzberg hits a clutch 3 to give the Panthers a 2-point lead with 5 seconds left. Drake time out. Draw up a play. Caitlin Ingle hits a game-tying 2 with one second left. OT. Then it was “Ingle Time” as the Bulldogs pulled away, sealing their bid to the NCAA with a 74-69 win.
Ingle led a group of four Bulldogs in double figures, an effort which included 15 points from Becca Hittner, 13 from Wendell and a double-double from Jonas.
The Missouri Valley’s career assists leader dished out seven of them Sunday and grabbed three rebounds.
“We talk all the time about what Lizzy and Caitlin do for our team. Everybody saw it today,’’ Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “Caitlin does[n’t] care if she has five points and 11 assists or if she scores like she did today. That’s senior leadership. They willed us to this win over a great UNI team that deserves to be in the NCAA tourney. We both deserve to hear our name called (tonight).’’
“They’ve worked hard all year and never lost sight of the goal,” said Central Arkansas head coach Sandra Rushing, the 2017 Southland Conference Coach of the Year. “To do it back-to-back says a lot about this group of young ladies. We beat a very good basketball team in SFA, and I have a lot of respect for the job that they do there. The second one was harder. A lot harder. You win the first one, and people are hungry. You wonder if your players are still going to have that hunger in their gut – and they did.”
“It was our last game at the Sewall Center,” said Stamolamprou, the tournament MVP who added nine rebounds and five assists and chucked the ball to the rafters at the final buzzer. “We couldn’t let (the lead) go.”
Sewall Center, home to men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball since 1985, will be razed this summer and replaced by the $50 million UPMC Events Center.Howard believes the facility will increase the school’s profile.
“Winning also does that,” he said. “You need the facility, and you need the people who have the heart and soul.”
The FGCU women’s basketball program has won 404 games in its 15 years of existence. None sweeter than this.
Bigger? Yeah, maybe a couple. But to fully grasp the significance and richness of this, you have to go back a year. For it was in this game on their home floor, that the seemingly invincible Eagles lost and did not go to the NCAA Tournament. The best team in school history had fallen short and nine seniors walked out the door.
There were more scholarships available than unavailable 11 months ago as this premier program was suddenly very vulnerable.
Heck, just getting to the conference title game was fairly remarkable.
Penn coach Mike McLaughlin had a front-row seat for almost every minute of the five Ivy League tournament games that preceded the women’s final. He watched a weekend full of tight finishes, big shots and ample drama.
When his team’s turn came Sunday evening, there was almost none of that.
“I feel like we wore (Louisiana-Lafayette) down, but their hearts wouldn’t let them stop,” said Troy coach Chanda Rigby, a former Loranger High School coach. “We identified what we needed to do last year, and rebounding was it.”
Detroit Free Press: Despite late slide, Michigan women’s basketball should make NCAAs
For the first time in three years, Kim Barnes Arico and her team should be able to enjoy the NCAA tournament selection show.
Even though the Wolverines lost four of their final five games, they enter Monday’s announcement (7 p.m., ESPN) confident they’ll be in the field.
Where they land is less certain.
Orange County Register: UCLA women’s basketball team prepares for Selection Monday
If timing is everything, Antonelli has waited things out right under the bosses’ noses. With CBS for this event recently as a sideline reporter, and working for years on women’s games for CBS Sports Net, she should have been on the network’s radar long ago. She’s thankful the call has come now, because it’s not something she’s been lobbying for.
“You know, I don’t even have an agent, and I never have had one,” said Antonelli, who started three seasons at North Carolina State under coach Kay Yow and graduated with a double major in business management and economics. A masters in sports administration came at Ohio University, where she met her husband-to-be, Frank, and she then began a career in marketing. That led to her pitching a package of Ohio State women’s games to a local TV station that included her as the game analyst.
Tough news for a program on the rise: Marshall women’s basketball coach Matt Daniel resigns
From Blue Star: Accelerating the women’s basketball coaching carousel
A couple of things that are interesting about what’s taken place thus far: First of all, this is a lot of jobs coming open so quickly. Last year there were 53 changes in Division I, surpassing the 40+ openings in two of the previous three seasons.
More importantly, none of the coaches leaving thus far has taken another coaching job. The lateral or upward head coaching moves figure to come later, when power conference jobs are filled, likely sparking another round of openings.
Funny what happens when you get serious about something: BSU women’s athletics embracing culture, producing historic year of championship success
The basketball team upset top-seeded Colorado State en route to its second Mountain West title and NCAA Tournament trip in three years. Senior Brooke Pahukoa became the second player in league history to be named tournament MVP more than once.
The same day, the 10th-ranked gymnastics team defeated No. 8 Denver and is on track to make its first team trip to the NCAA Championships in program history.
The Mountain West champion swimming and diving team is sending four athletes and five relay teams to NCAAs this week.
The volleyball team won the Mountain West last fall and went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
And it doesn’t end there.