Sunday, March 8, 2009.
AIKEN, S.C. – Fifth-seeded Lander upset No. 3 seed USC Aiken 64-53 Sunday afternoon in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament Women’s Championship game in the USCA Convocation Center.
With the victory, Lander captured its second straight Peach Belt Conference tourney title. The Lady Bearcats became the first team to accomplish the feat since Columbus State claimed back-to-back championships in 2000 and 2001.
LU earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while USC Aiken will likely earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Southeast Regional.
Freshman guard Mukia Myrick paced Lander (20-10) with 17 points, Shannon McKever booked 11 points and eight rebounds and freshman guard Jasmine Judge added 10 points.
Morgan Johnson and Kendra Chandler tallied 17 points each for USC Aiken (22-11). Johnson snagged eight rebounds and Chandler netted three steals.
The Lady Pacers, who were making their second-ever championship game appearance and first since 2001, jumped out ahead early, largely due to the play of Johnson and Chandler, who combined for 19 of USCA’s 22 first-half points. Johnson had 11 first-half points and seven rebounds, while Chandler added eight points.
The Lady Bearcats, playing in their fifth tourney title game, were saddled with early foul trouble. All-conference performer McKever picked up two fouls in the first 1:46 of the game. LU’s bench picked up the slack, however, with freshman center Kaylyn Small posting six points and six boards.
A Myrick jumper forced a 30-all tie at the 16:09 mark and sparked the Lady Bearcats to a 12-2 run. A Judge 3-pointer pushed the Lady Bearcats out a 42-32 lead before the Lady Pacers responded with a bucket from Johnson. Myrick countered with a trey and Brittni Johnson canned a 3-pointer at the 5:54 mark for a 51-35 LU advantage – its largest of the game.
Aiken answered with six straight, the last on a Johnson basket at the 3:55 mark, before a 3-point play from Myrick stemmed the tide. Aiken never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
Lander shot 44.0 percent from the field to just 35.8 percent for USCA and outrebounded the Lady Pacers 41-26.
A sophomore from Florence, S.C., McKeever was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Also named to the all-tournament squad were Columbus State’s Phebe Smith, Clayton State’s Shanrika Hardeman, USC Aiken’s Kendra Chandler and Morgan Johnson, along with Lander’s Jasmine Judge.