SAN ANTONIO, Tex. – Shaw battled back from an eight-point deficit in the second half to down #14 Pittsburg State 61-58 and advance to the NCAA Division II Final Four for the second straight year in a game played Tuesday night at Bill Greehey Arena on the campus of St. Mary’s University.
The Lady Bears outscored the Gorillas 9-1 midway through the second half, and battled to build and hold onto a small lead as PSU found a hot shooting touch from beyond the arc.
Shaw (27-6) advances to the national semifinal where they will take on #15 Rollins College. Last season, the Lady Bears lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Clayton State 63-46. Pittsburg State finishes its season with a 27-6 mark.
The Lady Bears shot only 29 percent on the evening, but held the Gorillas to 35.1 percent and forced 20 PSU turnovers, compared to only 12 for Shaw. The Lady Bears scored 17 points off the miscues.
“Sometimes you have to win ugly,” said Shaw head coach Jacques Curtis. “This was the type of game we expected. At this level, everyone can play. This was two teams battling it out and not wanting to go home. Our girls just found a way to win.”
Shaw’s defense carried the game, holding the normally high-powered PSU offense – which averages 71.6 points per game – to only 58.
“Defense is our image,” said Shaw senior Kyria Buford. “I’m not the best at defense, but I do what I can. We do well in either 2-3 (zone) or man-to-man.”
The Lady Bears ran the risk of losing the game in the first half, trailing the Gorillas by eight, 27-19, with 2:39 remaining on the first half clock. Sparked both by five points from Aslea Williams and a defensive effort by Shaw substitute Shemieka Brown, the Lady Bears scored nine straight to close out the half and take a one-point lead into the locker room.
“Shemeika only played four minutes total, but when she came in in the first half, she completely changed the flow of the game,” said Curtis. “She picked up their point guard full court, and they had to change who would bring the ball up the court.”
The Gorillas opened the second half outscoring Shaw 7-1 to take a five-point lead, then extended their advantage to eight with 12:58 left in the game when Drew Roberts hit a three to give PSU the 42-34 advantage.
Williams hit a jump shot off of a pass from Crystal Harris, and 30 seconds later made a pair of free throws to begin to put Shaw back in the game. Enonge’ Stoval sank a layup to trim the Gorilla lead to only two, 42-40.
Trailing by three, Shaw’s Harris – who finished the night 0-10 from the field – was fouled and sank two free throws. Two possessions later, Harris pulled in the offensive rebound, and missed the put back attempt three times before she was fouled and made one of two from the line to tie the score at 43 with 9:32 left in the game.
The two teams essentially traded buckets for the next six minutes. With 3:47 showing on the clock, Alexa Bordewick sank a three for Pittsburg State to trim the Shaw lead to one, 53-52.
The Lady Bears scored the next seven points, building a 60-52 lead with only 18 seconds left. PSU hit two threes on either side of a Brittney Spencer free throw to make the final score 61-58.
Williams finished the contest with 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead both squads. Buford had 13 points. Seven other Lady Bears scored. Buford and Allyssa Lane had three assists apiece to pace Shaw.
Bordewick, on the back of four three pointers, finished the game with 16 points. Lizzy Jeronimus had 13 and Roberts had 11. Roberts led the Gorillas with seven rebounds and Bordewick had four assists.
The Lady Bears advance to face Rollins, who defeated Landers 66-62. Tip will be at 9:30 eastern.