No. 17 Chattanooga tops ETSU 61-56 in OT to win So Con title

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) Chelsey Shumpert said she and her Chattanooga teammates never panicked even as their 24-point second half lead began to disappear.

”We stayed calm,” Shumpert said. ”If you get a little nervous you start doing things you aren’t supposed to.”

The sophomore guard scored a career-high 26 points, and 17th-ranked Chattanooga survived a furious second half comeback by East Tennessee State for a 61-56 overtime victory Sunday and its third straight Southern Conference championship. It was the Mocs’ 25th straight win.

East Tennessee State battled back from 24 points down in the second half to send the game into overtime on a putback by Serena Clark with 1.7 seconds left.

But Shumpert hit a 3-pointer and dished out two assists in overtime to deny ETSU its first Southern Conference tournament championship.

Shumpert came in averaging 11.5 points per game but needed to take on a bigger scoring load with the Buccaneers determined to take away center Jasmine Joyner, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Shumpert said she made a conscious effort to put the offense on her back, hitting 10 of 18 shots from the field including three 3-pointers.

None was bigger than the 3 from the left wing on the first possession of overtime.

Chattanooga ”punched us right in the face in overtime,” ETSU coach Brittney Ezell said. ”That 3 really hurt. It sort of took the wind out of our sails.”

After two dominating games to start the tournament, Joyner was held to four points Sunday. She managed to contribute in other ways though, chipping in with nine rebounds and four blocked shots.

”The first half we saw that they would leave the guard open a lot after the pick-and-roll,” Shumpert said. ”They were playing good defense on Jas so it opened things up for the guards.”

Ka’Vonne Towns and Keiana Gilbert both had nine points for the Mocs (29-3).

”We don’t know who is going to score for us on a particular day,” Chattanooga coach Jim Foster said. ”A lot of times it is four people in double figures. That’s who we are a basketball team. We don’t have superstars; we have very good basketball players.”

Destiny Mitchell had 19 points and Shamauria Bridges added 11 points for ETSU (21-11).

Chattanooga cruised through the regular season going 14-0 and then won its first two tournament games by a combined 47 points.

After a shaky start offensively, the Mocs took the lead with 8:15 left in the first half when Destiny Bramblett drove the lane and dished to the right corner for Moses Johnson, who knocked down a 3-pointer for a 17-15 lead.

That ignited a 23-4 run to close the half and it appeared the Mocs might cruise to another title.

Yet even after Chattanooga opened the second half on a 7-0 run and pushed the lead to 24, the Buccaneers wouldn’t go away.

Chattanooga started to struggle on offense, and ETSU cut the lead to 49-47 with 3 minutes left in the second half behind a 20-1 run led by Mitchell, who began to assert herself in the low post and Tiana Carter, who came alive late.

The Buccaneers had a chance to tie the game with a minute remaining after a steal by Mitchell, but Chandler Christopher missed a baseline jumper and the Mocs corralled the rebound. After a shot clock violation on Chattanooga, Clark scored on the putback off a miss by Mitchell to send the game to overtime.

But the Buccaneers quickly fell behind by seven points in overtime and could never gain the lead.

TIP INS

ETSU: The Buccaneers lost despite outrebounding the Mocs 42-27.

Chattanooga: The Mocs had beaten the Buccaneers 64-56 and 64-42 earlier in the season.

WHERE TO LAND

Foster believes with his team’s resume, which includes wins over No. 5 Tennessee and No. 19 Stanford, they will be one of the tournament’s higher seeds this year.

”I think they’re forced to give us a good seed,” Foster said. ”I think we deserve a good seed.”

MAKING PROGRESS

Ezell said she is proud of the progress her team has shown since last season and expects to land an WNIT bid. It will be the school’s first postseason berth since 2010.

UP NEXT

ETSU: Will wait to see where it is seeded in the WNIT.

Chattanooga: Will await their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.