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SSAC Women's Championship: Southern Poly women top Loyola for second straight SSAC crown

 

ROME, Ga. - Tournament Most Valuable Player Marisa Stotler led all scorers with 18 points and Southern Polytechnic State University won its second straight Southern States Athletic Conference women's basketball championship with a 60-44 victory over Loyola University New Orleans on Saturday night at The Forum in Rome, Ga.

 

With the win, the Lady Hornets (29-4), the No. 2 seed out of the SSAC East Division, earn one of three automatic bids from the SSAC into the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship in Jackson, Tenn.

 

The Wolfpack, who were the second-seed out of the SSAC West, bow out of the tournament with a 20-11 overall record after a magical run that included an overtime upset of the East's top-seed, Lee University, in Friday's semifinal round.

 

Southern Poly clinched the title with a furious second half run that also included mammoth performances from Brittany White and Tara Hay.

 

White scored 11 of her 17 points in the second half and Hay hit three of her game-high five 3-pointers after the break. Both were instrumental in a dominating second half effort that saw the Hornets outscore Loyola 36-23.

Loyola trailed just 30-26 early in the second half before the trio of Hay, Stotler and White went to work.

 

White hit a 3 and a layup on consecutive possessions before Stotler converted a layup off a feed from Hay to put Poly up 37-28.

A steal and a layup by White staked Poly a 12-point lead with 10:35 left and two Stotler field goals were sandwiched in between a pair of Hay treys to give the Hornets their largest lead of the game, 60-40, with 1:21 to play.

 

Stotler, who captured last season's SSAC Newcomer of the Year honors before earning 2010 SSAC Tournament MVP accolades, was dominant again in her final tournament appearance.

Chandler, Ariz., native averaged 19.0 points and 15.7 rebounds over three games, a run that included a 23-point, 28-rebound effort in Poly's quarterfinal round victory over Faulkner University.

 

Stotler finished 9-for-16 from the floor and grabbed six rebounds in the final to lead Poly to just its second-ever NAIA National Championship berth. The Hornets advanced to the Sweet 16 in their inaugural appearance at the national tournament last year.

 

Loyola, which won a dramatic 72-70 overtime decision over Lee in the semis one day after eliminating hometown favorite Shorter University in the quarters, simply ran out of gas against a physical Poly squad.

 

The Wolfpack never led in the game, but hung tough throughout the first half as the team's jostled for position.

 

Poly scored the first four points of the game on field goals from Stotler and White, but Loyola battled back behind 3-pointers from Keiva Council and Jackie Padilla to tie the game at 8-8.

 

The Hornets' biggest lead in the opening frame was five points on a couple of occasions, but Loyola crept back to within striking distance each time, crawling to within one possession five different times in the final 7:46 of the first half.

 

Poly led 24-21 at the break.

 

Amy Moody paced Loyola with 12 points and five rebounds. Jasmine Brewer had 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting while Council, the tournament's second-leading scorer at 20.3 points a game, was held to six points on 1-for-8 shooting - her 3-pointer with 17:27 left in the first half was her only make from the floor.

 

Southern Poly shot 45 percent (26-for-58) from the field while Loyola made 36 percent (16-for-45) of its attempts. The Hornets outrebounded the Wolfpack 33-32 and committed just 10 turnovers to Loyola's 20.

 

Joining Stotler on the All-Tournament team were White and Crystal Davis from Southern Poly, Council and Moody from Loyola and Brooke McKinnon from Lee.

- From SSAC News

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