Trojans upset Falcons, win tournament and automatic bid to NCAAs
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 11, 2013 1:47 PM
MISENHEIMER -- Time to polish up those scuff-marked tennis shoes.
Mount Olive has to look its best for the Big Dance.
The Trojan women seized the Conference Carolinas' automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional with a come-from-behind, 79-74 overtime victory against in-state foe Pfeiffer University at Merner Gym on Sunday afternoon.
Tournament MVP Jasmine McDonald and senior Tamara Nesmith each posted a double-double for MOC, which earned just its second NCAA tournament appearance in program history and first since 2008. McDonald contributed 10 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.
Nesmith received all-tournament accolades after she recorded her 12th double-double -- 14 points, 10 rebounds -- of the season. Kirksten Mitchell poured in a game-high 24 points. All-tournament pick Joneiqua Gary added 14 points, while Alex Silva chipped in nine.
Senior Alyssa Luebs snagged 10 rebounds before she fouled out.
"It was a great all-around team effort ... hard to mention just one person," MOC head coach Wendy Lee said. "The players were vested and the coaches were involved. It was great that we could bring home a championship for the college."
Fifth-seeded Mount Olive (18-11 overall) completed its improbable tournament run with victories over three higher-seeded opponents and issued much-awaited payback along the way. The Trojans avenged two regular-season losses against Coker and No. 8-ranked Limestone, respectively, in quarter- and semifinal-round play.
Pfeiffer swept the regular-season series by a total of five points.
"All the teams we played this week were championship teams and good in their own way," Lee said. "We were on a mission for sure. They just really played their hearts out and fought this past week. I can't even explain how proud I am of them."
MOC and Pfeiffer battled through nine ties and four lead changes. Neither team could manage more than a three-possession advantage during the well-played championship game.
Brittany Cox gave Pfeiffer a 62-54 lead with 10:29 left in the second half. However, Mount Olive answered with a 14-6 run capped by Mitchell's 3-pointer with 6:17 to go.
The Trojans held small leads, but struggled to finish plays -- which would have been an unwelcome repeat from their senior-day loss to Pfeiffer less than two weeks ago.
The Falcons' Christina Harvey sank two free throws, which knotted the game at 70-all with 59 seconds left in regulation. The teams misfired on numerous possessions down the stretch and headed into the extra session with no change in the score.
Gary buried a 3-pointer off McDonald's assist and Nesmith's offensive putback pushed Mount Olive ahead 75-72 early in overtime. Nesmith drained two free throws with 2:50 left and neither team scored again until Gary swished a pair of free throws with nine seconds left that sealed the outcome.
"To beat worthy opponents and hold it together in overtime, and do all of that on the road is a testimony to this group," Lee said. "We've grown up a lot, matured and learned from our regular-season games which has helped us. We drew from those experiences and we drew from each other."
MOC held Pfeiffer, the nation's fifth-ranked 3-point shooting team, to 21 percent (7 of 32) behind the arc. The Trojans dominated the glass, 61-49.
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