JACKSON- The first ever SAA championship game was one for the ages as Rhodes clawed by Millsaps 66-64 to claim the women's basketball title.
Lauren Avant made one of two free throws as part of her 30 points with 1.6 seconds left. The Millsaps in-bounds pass was deflected and time expired before the Majors could get off a shot.
The Majors and Lynx traded blows, runs and points for all 40 minutes of the title game that lived up to expectations. The game had 17 lead changes and eight ties. Neither team led by more than four points in the first half as Shante Morton led the way for the Majors with 11 points. Velvet Johnson and Makayla Roberson were hot early as well as each dropped seven for the Majors. Avant led a balanced Lynx attack with 8 as they led 31-30 at the break.
The second half featured a game of runs between the two teams. The Majors soared in front by seven at 39-32 off a Morton three and a pair of jumpers by Roberson. The Majors would maintain their edge at 45-38 before an 8-0 Lynx run made it a see-saw battle once again.
Avant would again put the Lynx on her shoulders, scoring four straight to give the Lynx a 52-48 advantage. Velvet Johnson however, would not be denied, a pair of free throws and feeds to Roberson and Morton got the crowd to their feet and gave the Majors a 61-59 lead with just over 90 seconds left. The Lynx hit clutch free throws in the final 20 seconds to maintain a slight edge. Roberson would hit a step back three to cut the lead to one with under two seconds left. That's when Avant made the biggest free throw of the day and the rest as they say, was history.
The game could not have been closer on any level. The two teams each shot 23-49 from the field (47%), each made 12 free throws. There were a total of 13 turnovers in the game. The Majors had the edge on the glass 30-22 as Shante Morton had 10 boards to record a double double with 19 points. Roberson led the Majors with 20 points, willing herself to the basket multiple times in the second half. Miah Brooks had a near double-double with nine points and eight rebounds. Coach Winkelman's team basketball system and philosophy was never more evident than in this tournament.
After the game, Makayla Roberson and Shante Morton were named to the SAA All-Tournament team. Roberson averaged 12 points per game in the tournament while Morton averaged 15 points and seven rebounds.
With no automatic bid because of the new conference, each team now plays the dreaded waiting game to see if they will get a ticket to the Division-III dance come March.
(COURTESY: MILLSAPS ATHLETICS)
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