The Rust College women’s basketball program is heading back to the NAIA Tournament for the third time in four seasons after Katie Blackmon hit a shot with just under two seconds left in regulation in a 51-50 over No. 3 Philander Smith in the GCAC championship game.
It was an offensive struggle on both ends of the floor in a battle of two defense-driven juggernauts as the two teams combined to go just 3-of-34 (8.8%) from deep and a 32% field goal percentage between them, needing last-second buckets for each side to cross the 50-point barrier.
Free throw shooting was critical down the stretch in such a tightly-contested matchup and the Lady Bearcats thrived under the intense pressure, hitting a perfect 11-of-11 attempts in the second half while the Lady Panthers went just 3-for-6 (50%).
Blackmon, the hero and one constant superstar over the past three seasons, had a game-high 13 rebounds and three assists while falling a point shy of a double-double, draining 4-of-7 (57.1%) shots including the game-winner, which came off her five offensive board of the day.
Rodgers will be remembered just as fondly as Blackmon for her performance, mainly the banked-in, corner three-pointer with the shot clock expiring to give the Lady Cats a 47-45 edge late in the ballgame. She was the only player on either side with multiple steals and the circus shot triple was her only made basket of the contest.
On an afternoon where neither squad could get much rhythm or momentum going on offense, it was Niya McGuire who stepped up, catching fire with seven field goals over nine tries (77.8%) for a contest-best 14 points to go along with her four rebounds, two dimes plus a steal.
Rust will await their destination, seed, and opponent on Thursday, March 2 at 6 p.m. CT with the NAIA First Round beginning on March 7.
Courtesy: Rust College