Messam wins game, tourney, bid for Hawks

Updated: March 12, 2005, 9:10 PM ET
Associated Press

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Hartford's Erika Messam was hoping she'd get the opportunity to take the game-winning shot. Her coach, Jennifer Rizzotti, was happy to oblige.

Messam's jump shot with 4.2 seconds left lifted Hartford to a 52-50 win over Boston University in the America East tournament championship game Saturday.

"I wanted the ball in my hands," said Messam, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. "I didn't say, 'Coach, get me the ball.' But she gave me the opportunity to make the big play."

The win gives the Hawks (22-8) an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, their second in four years.

"This is what we've been working for and talking about all year," said Ikea Witt, who finished with 10 points and 10 boards for the Hawks. "Now, it's finally here. It's all fun now."

Adrienne Norris led Boston University (15-16) with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Katie Meinhardt, who had averaged 23.8 points in three tournament victories, added 16 points.

Hartford led 40-31 after Danielle Matulis' basket with 13:15 left. Boston University then went on a 16-4 run, capped by Norris' basket, to lead by three with 7:36 remaining. It would be the Terriers' last field goal.

"There was an opportunity for us to open things up, but BU has a tough bunch of kids," Rizzotti said. "Adrienne Norris is a senior and played like she didn't want her career to end. Katie Meinhardt played like she hasn't played for almost two years. It's sad to have them go home as losers after what they accomplished the last four days."

Two free throws by Danielle Hood gave the Hawks a 50-49 lead with 3:39 to go, then Norris tied it with a free throw with 2:46 left. It remained that way until Messam's game-winning jumper hit the front rim and rolled in.

"It went straight up so I knew it would come straight down," said Messam, who finished with 20 points.

The Terriers had a chance in the final seconds, but Danielle Wexler blocked Meinhardt's shot and Hartford grabbed the loose ball.

"She got a hand on it," Meinhardt said. "I thought I was fouled but the referee is not going to call that at that point. But this was a great run."

The eighth-seeded Terriers had won three games to get to the final.

"I told my team that this was a tough, tough loss and they should be hurting," Boston University coach Kelly Greenberg said. "But we showed a lot of character this weekend."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press