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Stetson women win Atlantic Sun and NCAA berth

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MACON, Ga. (AP)

Florida Gulf Coast hadn't lost to an Atlantic Sun Conference opponent in over two years. With a berth in the NCAA tournament on the line, Stetson put a halt to that.

Sasha Sims scored 15 points, and Victoria McGowan and Cherisse Burris each added 14 to help Stetson rally for a 70-64 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday in the Atlantic Sun tournament championship game.

''We do know what it feels like, last year when we had to sit here and we were the second-place team,'' Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. ''We didn't want to feel like that anymore.''

Shanasa Sanders chipped in with 12 points for the Hatters (24-8), who overcame a 15-point deficit and were perfect from the free throw line in the final minute to break Gulf Coast's 21-game winning streak.

Stetson outscored the Eagles 43-24 in the second half.

''Our defensive play in the second half wasn't as good as their offensive play, that's for sure,'' said Gulf Coast coach Karl Smesko. ''Stetson was definitely taking it to us.''

C.J. Coddington's free throw tied it at 62 for Stetson with 1:32 left and the Hatters took the lead with two free throws from Burris with 54.5 seconds left.

Joyce Iamstrong, who led the Eagles with 31 points, tied it with a drive but Sims hit a 14-footer with 20 seconds remaining to give Stetson a 66-64 lead. Gulf Coast couldn't answer and the Hatters sealed it with four throws from Burriss and Sanders.

Gulf Coast's slimmest margin of victory in conference play this season came in a 53-42 win over North Florida in early January, so a close game was something new for the Eagles.

''I think that plays a small role,'' said Smesko, the conference coach of the year. ''Obviously you get tested a lot, you're in a lot of close games, you're better prepared for that situation. Regardless of when you've been in it, you've got to be able to make the plays.''

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