Nov. 24, 2012
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss outscored McNeese State, 18-9, in the overtime period to post a 68-59 win in the championship game of the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic Saturday in Reed Green Coliseum. The championship title was the first since 2007.
"We had some players who made some big plays for us tonight," coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. "Tanecka Carey and Ance Celmina had crucial baskets in crunch time. I thought the rebounds we got down that stretch made a huge impact on the game for us. Jerontay Clemons and Tiarra Pollnitz carried us early in that game and yes, we struggled a little bit with our decision-making. But when plays were critical for us, Jamierra Faulkner, Tanecka Carey and Ance Celmina stepped up and made the plays we had to make for us to win the game."
Southern Miss' Faulkner led all scorers with a game-high 20 points to go with eight rebounds and a career-tying eight steals. Clemons, the tournament's MVP, recorded her first career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Carey just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds.
"One of the things that I am extremely proud of is us boarding the basketball," McNelis said. "We had 20 offensive rebounds and that is huge. The second thing I'm most proud of is that we played with poise down the stretch and in the overtime. McNeese never went away."
Southern Miss led 36-29 with 11:46 remaining in regulation when McNeese went on an 11-4 run to tie the game at 40-40 with 7:39 to go. The Cowgirls took their first lead of the game when NeTanya Jones scored. The teams traded baskets and a Southern Miss connected on a pair of free throws to keep the score tied at 44-44. McNeese's Caitlyn Baggett hit a pair of free throws to give the advantage to the Cowgirls at the 4:00 mark. Faulkner then hit one-of-two from the line before Carey nailed a three-pointer to give the lead back to the home team. Jones got loose and hit a jumper in the paint before to tie the game at 48-48 with 1:12 to go. USM's Ance Celmina grabbed a big rebound off a Carey miss and put the Lady Eagles up 50-48 with 33 seconds remaining. Southern Miss had a chance to seal the win, but the Lady Eagles could not control the defensive rebound and Allison Baggett scored off a perfectly executed inbounds play to tie the game 50-50 and send it into overtime.
In the overtime period, Celmina scored first for Southern Miss missed before the Adrianna James tied the game on the Cowgirls' next possession. Faulkner then hit two free throws before Ashlyn Baggett kept the scored tied after a basket at 54-54. Faulkner then ignited a 6-0 run that pushed the Eagles' lead to 60-54. The Lady Eagles then hit 8-of-10 free throws in the final 57 seconds to seal the win.
Southern Miss scored the first points of the game before McNeese came right back to tie. Pollnitz hit a three-pointer to spark a 7-0 run for the 9-2 lead. Ashlyn Baggett connected on one of her three three-pointers in cutting the lead to 9-5. From there, the Lady Eagles ran off eight-straight points in taking a 17-5 lead.
Caitlyn Baggett hit a jumper in the paint to end the run before Southern Miss hit 3-of-4 free throws for its largest lead of the half at 20-7 at the 8:10 mark. Over the final 7:58, McNeese used a 15-6 run to get the score to 24-22.
Ashlyn Baggett led a quartet of Cowgirls with 17 points followed by Arianna James, Caitlyn Baggett and Allison Baggett with 10 points apiece. James also pulled down 11 rebounds.
McNeese forced Southern Miss into 31 turnovers that included 18 steals. However, USM dominated the boards as the Lady Eagles outrebounded McNeese, 55-34.
Clemons was joined on the all-tournament team with teammate Tiarra Pollnitz, Ashlyn Baggett and James of McNeese, Andrietta Thomas of Savannah State and Bianca Thomas of Talladega College.
Southern Miss returns to action on Nov. 28 when the Lady Eagles travel to Tallahassee, Fla., for a game against Florida A&M in a 6 p.m. (central) tip.